More scandals surface inside Smithsonian

Carl Malamud says,

For the past 18 months, Jacqueline Trescott and James V. Grimaldi of the Washington Post have covered the never-ending scandals that have plagued the Smithsonian, reporting for which they deserve the Pulitzer Prize. They've broken the story of the resignation in disgrace of the previous Secretary, the subsequent resignation in disgrace of the previous Deputy Secretary, and then the resignation in disgrace of the "CEO" of Smithsonian Business Ventures. Enough for one year? Not on your life!

Today, they bring us the story of W. Richard West, Jr., who as head of the National Museum of the American Indian, felt that the taxpayers should foot the bill for $250,000 in "first-class transportation and plush lodging in hotels around the world, including more than a dozen trips to Paris." (Paris being noted as one of the centers of American Indian culture!)

What struck me particularly hard was a quote from West buried deep inside the story. When asked about his $292,000 salary and his outrageous expenses, all West could manage to say was:

"I am grateful for at least the past year to have been the highest-paid director of a museum in the Smithsonian. Even at that status I have yet to earn even two-thirds of what I earned as a private attorney in my last year in private practice."

Jeez. What is amazing is not that one greedy lawyer tried to bilk the taxpayers, what is amazing is that the Regents of the Smithsonian (which includes 6 members of Congress, the Vice President, and the Chief Justice) let him get away with it without objection. It shows how deeply institutional the problems are in our attic.

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