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Daughters of the Republic of Texas

Remember the (gross mismanagement by George P. Bush’s Land Office at the) Alamo

Maybe remember this in November.

As the election season rolls on, keep this in mind when Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush opens his mouth: The officeholder from the state’s best-known political family certainly knows how to spin a story.

Back in February, Bush was in a noisy Republican primary fight with his predecessor, Jerry Patterson. Among other things, Patterson is an Alamo buff. He has made it abundantly clear that he thinks Bush has mismanaged things at that monument. And he got some support of that view from a draft of an internal audit critical of the “structure and funding model” at the Alamo put in place by the General Land Office.

“Internal” is an important word in the previous sentence. That draft audit — along with the final version that came out this week — was issued by the internal auditor in Bush’s own agency. That’s what internal auditors are supposed to do, to tell you when there’s spinach on your teeth, toilet paper stuck to your shoe, oddities in your accounting and so on.

They point things out to management. Management is supposed to clean things up.

The draft audit was first revealed by the Austin American-Statesman in early February, and other reporters caught up with the land commissioner to see what he thought about it. “I can’t really comment on the document,” Bush said at the time. “I cannot disclose, but we do have evidence that it was a doctored memo.”

Here’s the lead paragraph from the draft audit — also the lead paragraph of the final audit:

“GLO should reconsider the structure and funding model it uses for operating the Alamo. A contractor performs the daily operations, but it uses state resources to do this, as it does not have its own funds or other assets. This is an unusual situation that has created complexity and a lack of clarity regarding the nature and the use of the funds used for Alamo operations. It is also the root cause of several of the observations in this report.”

[…]

Auditors typically give space to the people and organizations under the microscope, a place to make arguments, to disagree or to point out things the auditors might have missed. In this audit, the top line sort of slams the door: “Management concurs with the recommendations.”

Here’s a copy of the audit report, with more recent news coverage from the Statesman and the Chron. You have to admire the gall it takes to claim that an audit report by his own agency, signed off by his own management, is “fake news”, but that’s how stupid Baby Bush thinks you are. Here’s the key takeaway:

Bush faces Democrat Miguel Suazo in the fall. Suazo said Thursday the audit “clearly demonstrates that George P. Bush is in over his head and lacks the competence to manage our state’s most historic landmark.”

There’s a reason why Jerry Patterson came out of retirement to try to win his old job back. I hope you’re still committed to bringing change to the GLO this November, Jerry.

Remember the Alamo lawsuit

Release the lawyers!

Earlier this month, Texas General Land Commissioner George P. Bush fired The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, longtime managers of the Alamo, effective July 10. In a letter to the group, Bush cited 10 contract violations and said the state would be moving in a new direction. Now, the group is suing the general land office and Bush, claiming they are wrongfully trying to claim the DRT’s library.

The lawsuit, filed in Bexar County on Monday, alleges that shortly after Bush decided to terminate the DRT’s management, the land office told the organization of plans to “transition” the group’s library collection to the state. The suit says this is an “unconstitutional taking” of private property.

The land office declined to comment on the suit.

The lawsuit also says that the land office ordered the library, which is located within the Alamo complex, to be closed on the weekends except for one Saturday a month. Then, the DRT says it was warned “the San Antonio Police Department would begin making ‘special patrols’ around the DRT Library premises.”

I don’t have a dog in this fight, and I don’t really care about the outcome of the lawsuit. I’m just looking forward to the made-for-TV movie that will eventually be filmed. My only regret is that Jan Hooks won’t be around to have a part in it. The Current has more.

DRT vs OAG: OAG wins

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the Daughters of the Republic of Texas have conceded in the fight over how the Alamo has been maintained.

In a news release Tuesday, the Daughters acknowledged recent troubles at the shrine and vowed to use a critical report issued Nov. 20 by the Texas attorney general’s office as a “learning tool” for the 7,000-member historical group.

DRT President General Karen Thompson said the 38-page report “has provided closure about past management practices and operations” at the former mission and battle site.

It was a sudden capitulation after the DRT’s top officer had considered waging a last-ditch public relations battle to try to discount the report. The San Antonio Express-News obtained a copy of a draft release sent to board members Monday in which Thompson is critical of the attorney general’s findings, claiming “many inaccuracies and unsupported allegations.”

But the release she sent to the media Tuesday didn’t challenge the report’s findings.

“We are also mindful of past mistakes and will use this report as a learning tool, and all officers of the DRT will read it and benefit from it,” Thompson said.

See here for the background, and here for the DRT’s press release, in which they list a number of changes they say they have made that were not listed in the OAG’s report. What really matters here is that proper care is being taken of the Alamo. Let’s hope that will be the case from now on.

DRT vs OAG

Nothing like a little holiday week controversy.

A blistering report released Tuesday by the Texas attorney general’s office outlines a long list of problems and dysfunctions in the past management of the Alamo by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

In a 38-page report to the Legislature, the attorney general’s office accuses the DRT of misappropriation of state funds; failure to care for the shrine; and improper claims of ownership of “historic artifacts.”

The report points out problems have been mostly with the organization’s leadership, and not the more than 7,000 DRT members who devote “countless volunteer hours” to preservation and education.

“It should be noted that the misconduct detailed in this report is largely attributable to the DRT’s leadership — and that conduct should not detract from the individual DRT members who tirelessly and selflessly served the Alamo for over a century,” the report states.

[…]

The document, posted on the attorney general’s website late Tuesday, summarizes findings from an 18-month investigation of the DRT’s Alamo operations that began in 2010. During that time, the Legislature passed a law transferring Alamo custodianship from the DRT to the Texas General Land Office.

The Daughters, who had been the shrine’s custodian since 1905, remain at the Alamo, providing daily operations under a state contract set to expire in mid-2013. Because the Legislature removed the DRT as custodian, the AG’s office “agreed to refrain from pursuing legal action against the DRT in court,” the report says.

The OAG report is here, and a statement from the DRT about the report is here. I have no dog in this fight, which has been going on since 2010 when now-former DRT member Sarah Reveley first accused the Daughters of mismanaging the Alamo. Texas Monthly had a story on it at the time that you’ll either need to be a subscriber or an owner of the print issue to read; other coverage found via Google is here, here, here, here, here, and here. I just hope that this report leads to a conclusion where everyone is satisfied with the way the Alamo is being managed and maintained.

Remember the Alamo ™

Trademark this.

An attorney working for Gov. Rick Perry’s office filed a “notice of opposition” [last week] with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office stating that Texas — not the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, which operates the historic site — should control the trademark.

The two have been at odds since April, when state officials said they discovered the DRT had applied for the trademark, but they are still discussing settlement options.

“We had hoped to reach an agreement by now. But we anticipate we will be able to reach one,” said Jim Ewbank, general counsel for the DRT.

The trademark would allow the DRT to generate money for upkeep of the monument by selling official Alamo-brand merchandise.

In the opposition notice, Houston-based attorney Paul Van Slyke noted that the Alamo has belonged to Texas since 1883. The Legislature gave the DRT “care and custody” of the shrine in 1905, but the state has retained ownership and should get the trademark, he wrote.

“The names THE ALAMO and ALAMO have come to mean more than the name of a historic shrine,” he wrote. “Through a long period of exclusive and continuous use … these names have acquired a commercial distinctiveness.”

Put me on the side of the state in this one. I agree that it makes sense to seek out merchandising revenue to help with upkeep of the place, but the state should own the trademark and should be responsible for appropriating the revenues. That will eliminate a major headache if some day for some reason the DRT is no longer responsible for care and custody.