NCAS Calls Attention to Conspicuous Gap in Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s Meeting Minutes
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 11, 2012
National Civic Art Society Calls Attention to Conspicuous Gap in the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s Meeting Minutes
The National Civic Art Society, which has been leading the fight to stop the proposed design for the Eisenhower Memorial and seeks a new open, transparent, and democratic competition for the design of the Memorial, wishes to call attention to procedural irregularities in the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s meeting minutes.
In light of the recent abuses of the public trust and taxpayer funds by the General Services Administration (GSA), the National Civic Art Society encourages an exploration of whether the Eisenhower Memorial Commission followed all appropriate legal and ethical procedures in authorizing the use the GSA Design Excellence Program to select an architect for the Eisenhower Memorial. The selection of the GSA Design Excellence Program for the Eisenhower Memorial created a de facto closed competition. This is despite the fact that the history of using the GSA Design Excellence Program shows it to be inappropriate for selecting a designer for a national memorial. When there was a nearly identical closed competition for the World War II Memorial in the 1990s, there was a public outcry and the competition was scrapped for an open one.
There is a concerning gap in the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s minutes between its July 2007 and March 2009 meetings—an issue that Chairman Rob Bishop of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands raised in a hearing on March 20, 2012. According to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s 2009 meeting minutes, “Chairman Siciliano called for approval of the Commission’s meeting minutes of March 30, 2006 and July 26, 2007. The Chairman observed that while these minutes had been reviewed and discussed at previous meetings, there had not been a quorum of Commissioners present to approve them [emphasis added].” Thus, according to the Commission’s own records, it held at least two meetings between the July 2007 and March 2009 meetings. Where are those missing minutes? And what precisely occurred at those meetings?
Here is what occurred in 2008 according to the March 2009 meeting minutes:
“[Executive Architect] Feil states that one year ago, the Commission voted to move forward with the designer selection process by approving four items. First, the [GSA] Pre-Design Program was approved. Second, GSA’s Design Excellence Program was approved as the process to be used to procure the memorial design tem. Third, lead designers were restricted to citizens of the United States. Fourth, a portfolio-based competition was specified [emphasis added].”
Thus, in 2008, the Commission voted on the essential aspects of the “competition” that selected Frank Gehry. Moreover, it must have been in 2008 that the Commission made Daniel Feil, its executive architect, its designated agent to oversee the competition and to engage in contracts on the Commission’s behalf. On May 8, 2008, in Public Law 110-229, Congress authorized the Commission to appoint an architect as its agent, including to:
(i) represent the Commission on various governmental source selection and planning boards on the selection of the firms that will design and construct the memorial; and
(ii) perform other duties as designated by the Chairperson of the Commission.
This fulfilled the Commission’s 2007 request to the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands to “empower the Commission’s Executive Architect” who “[a]s the Commission’s agent . . . will also be authorized to represent the Commission as a voting member on design and construction selection panels, thereby improving coordination, communication, and decision-making for our twelve Commissioners.”
Since the selection process was announced in August 2008, the Commission must have made Feil its agent between May 8, 2008 and then.
At the above-mentioned hearing on the Eisenhower Memorial, Chairman Rob Bishop specifically asked the Eisenhower Memorial Commission about the missing minutes.
Bishop: There are some missing minutes from I think July 2007 to March 2009. Where are those minutes and can we get a copy of them?
Retired General Carl Reddel (Executive Director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission): There was not a meeting of the Commission at that time…
Bishop: In that two year time period? From July ’07 to March ’09 you had no meetings?
Reddel: I believe that’s correct, yes sir. In other words, the business of the Commission at that time did not include a full Commission meeting.
Bishop: That’s unusual.
If Reddel was being truthful, on what authority did the Commission take those crucial actions, including votes, regarding the competition? Not only are those meetings putatively unofficial (and apparently off the record), there was no quorum at them. Likewise, on what authority did the Commission make Feil its designated agent? Moreover, if those 2008 meetings were not official, why are they even mentioned in the 2009 minutes? What was the procedural status of those meetings under the Commission’s bylaws? Furthermore, was there due notice of those meetings? Were all Commissioners invited to attend them? The National Civic Art Society believes that these questions deserve careful scrutiny, particularly since the Eisenhower Memorial Commission and General Services Administration have already wasted millions of dollars of taxpayer money to get to this stage in the design process.
In light of this waste, appearance of irregularities, and the broad public outcry against the design of the proposed Eisenhower Memorial, the National Civic Art Society calls for a new open, transparent, and democratic competition for the Eisenhower Memorial that is overseen by members of Congress, art and architecture experts, stakeholders, and members of the public—not the General Services Administration (GSA). President Eisenhower and the American taxpayers deserve no less.
 Eisenhower Memorial Commission Minutes from July 26, 2007, available at http://eisenhowermemorial.org/userfiles/file/070726_2007%20July%2026_Approved%20Commission%20Meeting%20Minutes.pdf.
 Eisenhower Memorial Commission Minutes from March 31, 2009, available at http://eisenhowermemorial.org/userfiles/file/090331_2009%20March%2031_Approved%20Commission%20Meeting%20Minutes.pdf.
 Recording of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Hearing on the Proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, available at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/305003-1.
 Statement of Carl W. Reddel, Brig. Gen., USAF (Ret.) Executive Director, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission to the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Sep. 27, 2007, available at http://naturalresources.house.gov/uploadedfiles/reddeltestimony09.27.07.pdf.