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Top-heavy Arizona Historical Society wastes tax dollars

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Top-heavy Arizona Historical Society wastes tax dollars

The Arizona Historical Society is a minor state agency with a nonessential mission. Nevertheless, its director is among the state employed fat cats. Less than 2% of the 41,000 state employees are paid over $100,000. Of those that do, many are medical doctors (department of corrections) or judges. The AHS however, pays its director $120,000 per year. Furthermore, prior year records on the Arizona State Treasure's website show $50,000 in performance pay within the AHS. It does not state the recipient(s), but a guess can be made. No matter how shiny the floors may have been, the janitor did not get that money.

In addition, the AHS employs a $72,000 Chief Administrative Officer. Why does the director need an administrative officer to manage history museums with just a few dozen employees? Apparently, the AHS board has not been informed that Arizona is broke. Or, perhaps they don't care. The AHS is a unique state agency that reports to no one. It selects its own board members, and the director reports to the board, not the governor. The great majority of AHS funds come from the taxpayers, but the state apparently does not or cannot exercise adequate oversight.

According to the pay range for directors of state historical agencies is $32,630–$76,360. If that data is correct, the AHS board is paying the probably redundant administrative officer a salary that is near the top end of the range for the director's salary. The AHS board apparently has little regard for taxpayers.

Bloated salaries are not the only AHS abuse of public funds. The hardly visited Marley Center Museum at Papago Park in Tempe eats millions of tax dollars each year. AHS management of this facility has received extensive media ridicule in years past and has been severely criticized by the Auditor General. The interactive displays now lie is a state of disrepair.

As part of the infamous Rio Nuevo project in Tucson, the AHS blew $1.4 million taxpayer dollars on a museum that will never be built. The AHS promised to raise private funds for construction, but failed.

Now, in the midst of the financial crisis, they are at it again. They are already hiring staff for their new Arizona Centennial Museum with taxpayer dollars, but the museum does not even exist. It is so far behind schedule it can never be open for the centennial, so it has been renamed the Arizona Experience museum. The $15 million required to convert an existing building into the centennial museum has not been raised. Will the AHS have taxpayer supported centennial museum staff playing pinochle in an empty building?

Zimmerman, who describes himself as a “conservative independent,” runs Mineral Museum Madness, a blog opposed to converting the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum into the Centennial Museum.

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