Waukesha County Museum's archivist laid off

Published on: 11/6/2013

Waukesha County Museum officials continue to address its troubling financial situation.

Officials laid off a longtime archivist who worked in the museum's research center. Eliminating the position will save the museum $50,000 from its budget.

Tom Constable, chairman of the Waukesha County Museum's board of directors, said the museum's research center will still remain open, but only by appointment during its regular weekly business hours from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Constable said volunteers will now run the research center.

"We have some very skilled volunteers that will help us," Constable said. "We'll ask the volunteers that have been working in that area to continue."

The center serves about 500 people a year and most of it is for genealogy research, Constable said.

With the position eliminated, it leaves four full-time employees and two part-time employees at the museum.

While the museum will save money from this move, Constable said the museum still needs to raise a significant amount of money to make up a $150,000 cut in funding from the county in 2014.

"Absolutely (we still need to get to $300,000)," Constable said of the amount it received from the county last year. "If they take away that $150,000, we'll have to make up that just to reach the level on par with last year."

Dan Finley, the museum's interim chief executive officer, said eliminating the position shows it is attempting to find ways to be more cost effective.

"We're saving money, and this certainly tells the county that we're serious about controlling our costs," Finley said.

Chairman pleased with Finley

Constable, meanwhile, said he is pleased with the leadership Finley is providing three weeks into his two-month, voluntary stint as CEO.

"I'm very encouraged," Constable said. "I've learned a lot from him. I know nothing about running museums. I know a lot about being a board member and I needed a short term (CEO) and I called him and he agreed to come for nothing."

Finley was a former museum board member before serving as the Waukesha County Executive for 14 years. He then helped lead the Milwaukee Public Museum through a tough financial situation before working at a museum in Los Angeles for two years.

While Finley has volunteered to help the museum, some have questioned his financial responsibility. Finley defaulted on his mortgage after leaving Wisconsin. According to court records, Finley and his wife stopped making monthly payments of $5,432 on a $1.2 million mortgage for their Okauchee home in December, 2010.

Constable, who called Finley to ask if he would return to Waukesha while the board looked at finding a permanent replacement for Kirsten Lee Villegas, said he never had an issue with a foreclosure suit. He said he is confident that Finley will manage the museum's finances properly.

"I brought him here because of his expertise in managing museums, his connections and for fundraising and we're very pleased to have him here," Constable said. "He's volunteering and (the foreclosure suit) was not an issue. It was none of my business and nobody has asked about it.

"When you get free help, you're delighted."

The Finleys' home was eventually sold by The Weber Group in March 2012, something Finley said he was happy to see.

"That issue is (settled)," Finley said a couple weeks ago.