A glance at Berkshire Museum's final report to AG on art sale proceeds

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PITTSFIELD — In a final report to Attorney General Maura Healey, the Berkshire Museum discloses issues flagged as concerns by Healey's office. The report was required in the successful 2018 petition to the Supreme Judicial Court that ended state opposition and allowed up to $55 million in art sales. The Eagle obtained attorney William F. Lee's Oct. 18 report through a public records request. Issues include:

THE SALES: Of 40 works removed from the collection, 22 were sold, netting $53.25 million. Eighteen objects were returned from Sotheby's to Pittsfield but are not yet reaccessioned due to delays and staffing, according to Executive Director Jeff Rodgers.

PROCEEDS: $45 million was invested with Northern Trust Co. based on advice from Portfolio Evaluations Inc.; $5 million is held in an account at Lee Bank for capital projects; and $3.25 million sits in a Lee Bank account to be used only for the good of the collection under terms of the court ruling. Rodgers said the museum plans to draw no more than 3.2 percent from its investment fund in any year.

PLANNING & MANAGEMENT: Hired Miriam Kronberg as chief operating officer, a new post. Hired Bridget Rigas as chief engagement officer in January 2019; Rigas left the post this year. Rodgers said a successor has been found for that development job, with an announcement coming after Jan. 1.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, BOARD PRACTICES: An outside law firm trained board members on best practices of nonprofit management in 2018, including conflict of interest issues. Interim director David Ellis shaped a five-year financial plan and reset policies on internal financial controls. Anne Engel, a consultant who advised the master plan that resulted in art sales, is helping shape a new business plan.

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BUILDING NEEDS: Hired Colliers International to assess its building needs. A July report called for infrastructure improvements, and five companies competed for the job. The winning firm was Hill-Engineers, Architects, Planners Inc. of Dalton. Lee's report to the AG details steps that the company's president, Jeffrey Noble, and the museum took to avoid a conflict of interest, due to his service, until September, on the museum board.

Lee said Noble disclosed his interest, sat out discussions on the project and did not vote on the contract. The company was chosen by trustees, Lee said, "because Hill Engineers had provided the most favorable pricing terms, as well as a shorter timeline for completion of the work."

COMMUNITY: In 2020, admission will be free to youths younger than 18.

FUNDRAISING: Raised more money in 2018 from donors than ever before, $1.3 million, due to one-time gifts.

OTHER: An unidentified local art collector has offered to donate 223 pieces valued at over $1 million.


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