Monday, March 21, 2011

Dallas Museum of Art Named as Defendant in 2nd "elderly lady" Will Litigation

Contested Virginia Lazenby O'Hara $4.5 million bequest resurfaces as potentially establishing "pattern of wrongdoing," after sole heir of Dallas' Wendy Reves names Museum in litigation

     The New York Times recently reported on a dispute involving the sole heir of art collector and arts patron the late Wendy Reves regarding a March 11, 2011 lawsuit naming the Dallas Museum of Art as a defendant related to Reves' final will. The article is entitled "Dallas Museum is Sued." Plaintiff Arnold L.Schroeder Jr. essentially pleads wrongful fiduciary behavior by the DMA. The official court document is made available by Robert Wilonsky at Unfair Park here, along with the article.

     This is at least the second lawsuit where the DMA is forced to defend against charges of illegality. The first filing occurred in the 1970s when the actions of another "elderly lady," Virginia Lazenby O'Hara, caused Dallas taxpayers and arts patrons to stage a revolt against the ambiguous final wording of her will which wed a public museum, the DMA, with a private entity, the Foundation for the Arts.

     That 1970s class-action lawsuit--among whose plaintiffs were the Friends of the DMA and Artists Equity--caused individuals to become blacklisted. Their associates and friends, tarred with a "guilt by association" label, were blacklisted as well.

     Dallas taxpayers and arts patrons deserve a museum management team, including trustees, who are highly ethical people. Legal problems such as these lawsuits underscore a tension and dissatisfaction. And although decades separate the legal disputes they point to a museum steeped in a culture of questionable behavior.