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Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 02:50 pm

Shake up at Lincoln papers project

Director facing dismissal

Daniel Stowell
Daniel Stowell, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln project based at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, has been placed on unpaid leave and is facing termination.

Stowell confirmed that he was placed on unpaid leave on Wednesday and told that he will be terminated. He declined to provide further details without consulting with his lawyer.

“There were three charges, all of which were spurious,” Stowell said. “If my attorney is OK with it, I will send you the charges and my response. I don’t want to act without checking with him.”

Illinois Times has learned that at least one other staffer recently has departed the papers project, although the circumstances of the departure are not clear.

Chris Wills, spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency that oversees the ALPLM that houses the papers project, declined comment.

“The issues you asked about are personnel matters, and we cannot comment on them,” Wills wrote in an email.

The papers project plunged into controversy in the fall of 2015 as Gov. Bruce Rauner slashed funding for the effort to locate and put on the internet copies of every document ever read or written by Lincoln. Staffing was ultimately cut from a dozen employees to seven. An inspector general’s investigation also was launched, but the reasons why have never been made official. In a memo to academics and other supporters of the project, Stowell ast year wrote that there was a concern that the IHPA director didn’t have sufficient oversight over expenditures made by the project.

Stowell was placed on paid administrative leave for about a month earlier this year. It’s not clear why, and he was returned to his post after public and private funders expressed concerns about the departure of Stowell, who has been the project’s director since 2001.

After Stowell was returned to work in June, the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation released $25,000 to the papers project that had been withheld due to concerns about Stowell’s status. The National Historical Records and Publications Commission, which had provided annual grants of nearly $100,000 in 2014 and 2015, postponed consideration of a grant request last spring due to questions about Stowell’s status.

Keith Donohue, spokesman for the commission, said that the commission is expected to consider a grant request from the papers project at its Nov. 30 meeting. He said the amount of the grant request submitted for the papers project is confidential.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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