Museum Founder Locked Out of Museum

By Rachel Martin

February 19, 2013 Updated Feb 19, 2013 at 12:17 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – More controversy surrounds the African-African American Historical Museum Monday, as founder Hanna Stith says she was locked out.

African-African American Historical Museum founder Hanna Stith says she was locked out of the museum Monday. She says she found a letter taped to museum door claiming the locks were changed and to contact an attorney Peter G. Mallers before taking any action. Stith says Mallers represents who she considers to be former board members.

“I was shocked. I was shocked beyond belief the locks had been changed,” said Stith.

Pompia Durril says he remains the Board President and would not comment on whether the board had the locks changed.

Stith admits she recently changed the locks on the museum door to keep certain board members out.

She suspects Monday’s occurrence stems from a meeting on Feb. 11, where members of the African American Historical Society voted the board out. However, Durril says the board is in tact because not enough members were present for the vote to count. Stith and board members both say the other misinterpreted the bylaws.

“The whole situation is unnecessary, it is embarrassing. I am embarrassed to keep coming before the public with these things when we've done everything that we are supposed to do and everything we are advised to do. We actually won the election. There's no doubt about it,” said Stith.

Stith says she’s discouraged and disgusted, and finds the fighting unnecessary. She says she’s tired of the bad publicity because it’s not good for the future of the museum.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to the museum at this point,” she said. “It’s the membership that runs the museum and it is the membership that the museum depends on to function and to stay alive. If they lose the support of the community and the membership then we are in trouble.”

Stith says another membership meeting was held Saturday where new board members were elected.

Durril had stated before the Feb. 11 meeting, that the board hired Dr. John Aden as the new Executive Director after Stith stated she would resign Jan. 1. However, Stith retorts she never submitted a formal letter of resignation.

Stith called 21Alive Monday afternoon informing us about the lock out and said, “I’m walking away, I’m done with this, I’m through with it.” When asked if that meant she was stepping down as Executive Director of the museum she said, “I don’t know for sure because it’s hard for me to walk away and leave the museum in the condition that it is in.” But for now, Stith says she plans to retire June 30.

“It really is finished. We should not even be here today discussing it because they lost, we won. I am to the point where it is finished and I’ve had enough of it and I’m sure the public has had enough of it too.”

Durril was contacted about these issues on Monday and said he prefers not to comment.

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