York County leaders will move forward with a plan to give the commission overseeing York County's museums another chance.
But they also want answers about the involvement of a foundation that supported a failed deal to develop 400 acres along the Catawba River for a new museum.
At its meeting Monday night in York, the York County Council moved forward with a plan to leave the Culture and Heritage Museums' employees and budget under control of the Culture and Heritage Commission instead of bringing museum staff and finances under county management.
The plan shrinks the commission to nine members, seven of which will be appointed directly by each council member. Under the plan, county staff will take on extra museum duties, eliminating the need for some museum positions. The County Council also will approve the commission's budget, staffing plan and some decisions regarding museum collections and property.
The new oversight may be more than what the County Council can handle, said Councilman Bump Roddey, who fears the council will be "micromanaging" an organization it knows little about running.
Others assured him the plan will reduce museum expenses and provide county oversight of museum finances and operations. The plan will require another reading and public hearing before approval.
The council's decision followed a public hearing on whether the county should bring the museum under direct county control. Only a few speakers attended. Most asked to end all taxpayer funding for the museum, which should be private, they said.
Museum commission leaders expressed hope that the newly appointed commission has passion for the museums.
"I hope the people they appoint have a real love for the commission and aren't just political cronies," said Jim Johnston, chairman of the commission.
Johnston, along with commissioners John Castaldo and David Roberts, said recent questions about the museum foundation have tainted public opinion of the commission.
S.C. Rep. Ralph Norman made another appearance before the council to raise questions about the involvement of the Culture and Heritage Foundation, which supports the museums, in a plan to develop donated land along the Catawba River to help pay for a new museum.
In 2006, the foundation partnered with an international development company called Cherokee Investment Partners to build an environmentally friendly housing community. Proceeds from the development were supposed to pay for a new county museum along the river.
But the deal fell through, and now the foundation and a subsidiary created to manage the deal owe $3.78 million to a development partner that exited the project. They have until June to pay, although the deadline could be extended for a year.
The subsidiary has agreed to sell some of the land to a Charlotte-based medical group vying for permission from South Carolina officials to build a hospital in Fort Mill.
Last month Chairman Britt Blackwell requested a specific accounting of how money was spent on the project. Councilman Eric Winstead renewed the request, saying "no accusations are being made," but the council wants questions answered once and for all.
Norman said a group of legal, land development and accounting experts could be hired to look into the deal. He said the county would not have to pay because a group of "concerned citizens" would foot the bill.
Blackwell also assured council members the county would not have to pay, citing a Winthrop accounting professor could help.
The council voted 6-1 in support of exploring what it will take to have outside parties conduct such a review.
Councilman David Bowman voted against the measure.
The council will still have to approve the hiring of any group, said County Manager Jim Baker.