Letters to the Editor 6/16/16
BUREAUCY BOTCHES PAPERS
Bruce Rushton’s analysis of the ongoing crisis at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln was well-written and informative (“Shredding Lincoln,” June 9). If government mismanagement of the Papers Project continues on its present course, we can expect the entire project to move out of state, as did the Grant papers after John Y. Simon’s death. Only this time the fault will be excessive meddling and greedy power plays by ravenous, bungling bureaucrats. Perhaps Edwin Stanton’s prophetic words should be amended to, “Now he belongs to the nitwits.”
Daniel Stowell and the rest of Papers Project staff have illuminated the 16th president far beyond what anyone would have expected 30 years ago when there was “nothing left of Lincoln to discover.” All the credit goes to the staff and their dogged determination and passion to rediscover Lincoln, with the support of the Abraham Lincoln Association, the University of Illinois Springfield and the thousands of donors who contributed to the project. The State of Illinois provided a parking pass, kept the lights on, tried to politicize the project and now asks for total fiduciary control while dismantling the project’s crucial funding foundation. It’s time to let Lincoln out to pasture and find a new dead horse to ride into ignominy.
PROJECT IN TROUBLED WATERS
I have supported Lincoln Legals and Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project since its inception. Several people contacted me about “Shredding Lincoln,” by Bruce Rushton, June 9. They question if it clarifies the situation and how it helps guide the Papers forward out of its present troubled waters.
I don’t know how to respond. But I do know that I want more information. As Eileen Mackevich observes, “Part of healing and restoring the project’s finances is removing any whiff of scandal. Donors don’t want to hear about investigations and directors being placed on paid leave.”
The whiff of scandal remains and will be removed only when all facts are revealed and questions answered. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency should disclose all Project finances, annual budgets, grants, and payrolls, staff level after July 1, status of the Project work, the agenda of searches yet to be made and the plan for completing them, projected date of Project completion and cost to complete the Project. Disclosure is the only way to restore Project confidence or conclude that confidence cannot or should not be restored.
Finally, how will the damage to Stowell’s good name be restored? For over a decade, Stowell has defined the Project’s goals and superbly carried them out. IHPA without explanation placed Stowell on paid leave and announced an investigation. After several weeks, IHPA put Stowell back in charge with no explanation.
The Star Chamber tactics used by IHPA are a disgrace. Lincoln would not approve. Such tactics should never be used by a state employee no matter what position they hold and no matter the subject. It is a vicious means of destroying a person’s reputation, a means that was rejected centuries ago by the citizens of England in protest to the tactics of the king. The public should know the name of the public employee using such and that person should be fired.
Richard E. Hart