Letter: Questions of conflict at Berkshire Museum
To the editor:
The Berkshire Eagle and Larry Parnass have done a great job covering the debacle going on at the Berkshire Museum. With each story, more facts are revealed. And with each day, more questions arise. For example:
Why is a trustee making money for legal services at the Berkshire Museum while he is serving on the board? Is that a conflict of interest? Also, wasn't that same trustee an associate in a Pittsfield law firm with the monetizing lawyer who has been representing the museum? Does his vote for things like selling the art help his former law associate make money handling the transactions? Is that a conflict of interest? Have both been making money as attorneys off the museum as appears to be the case? Is that a conflict of interest?
What about the Berkshire Museum trustee who is also a trustee at The Norman Rockwell Museum. Is his loyalty to the Berkshire Museum or The Norman Rockwell Museum? Was his vote on the sale of Shuffleton's Barbershop, for example, and its subsequent display at the Rockwell Museum a conflict of interest? A requirement of a trustee of a non-profit in Massachusetts is absolute loyalty to the organization. Which one is his loyalty to when the two loyalties conflict?
Another possible conflict involves one of the trustees and a member of the staff whose husband appears to be an employee at a local company under said trustee. Does said trustee hold power over both their paychecks-husband's and wife's? Is this a conflict? I believe there is a question about this type of situation that is asked on the yearly filings. Did the museum disclose this relationship?
And what about the trustee who continues to make money for his company, hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last few years, while serving as a trustee? How is this not a gross conflict of interest?
Merriam-Webster defines the term conflict of interest as "1: a conflict between the private interests and the official or professional responsibilities of a person in a position of trust" and "2: a conflict between competing duties (as in an attorney's representation of clients with adverse interests)."
Berkshire Eagle and Mr. Parnass, maybe you can ask the Massachusetts attorney general and the head of the nonprofits division why this behavior is being tolerated and seems to continue unabated.
The writer was born and grew up in the Berkshires.
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