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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Mass. Attorney General investigates Rose Art sale

Published: October 16, 2009
Section: Front Page

A Suffolk Probate Court judge gave the state approval Tuesday to conduct a civil investigation into Brandeis University’s deliberations over potentially closing the Rose Art Museum and selling some of its artwork

The application for Civil Investigative Demand (CID) stated the investigation “is necessary in order to investigate the potential misapplication of charitable assets donated for the benefit of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University,” and was submitted to the court by Johanna Soris, assistant attorney general of the non-profit organizations and public charities division of the attorney generals office.

The investigation is supported by Chapter 12 section 8H of Massachusetts state law, which states “the attorney general, whether he believes that charitable funds have not been or are not being applied to charitable purposes or that breaches of trust have been or are being committed in the administration of a public charity, may conduct an investigation upon application to and with the approval of a judge of the trial court.”

The CID marks a more aggressive change in the attorney general’s policy toward Brandeis University and the Rose Art Museum. In April, three months after the university announced its decision to sell artwork from the museum, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office Emily LaGrassa told The Hoot that the attorney general would only become involved with the university after it made the decision to sell a specific piece of artwork. At that time, the Attorney General would review the potential sale and ensure that it did not violate any restrictions put on the donated art at the time it was given.

Both Brandeis and the plaintiffs of a lawsuit filed against the university in order to prevent the closure of the museum and the sale of its artwork consented to the request for the CID.

The CID does not prevent the university from selling art from the Rose Art Museum, but does require the university to give the attorney general 30 days notice before selling artwork.

The CID has been served to University President Jehuda Reinharz and consists of a long list of documents to be provided to Soris and her staff within 30 days. If the university does not comply with this demand, it could face a charge of up to $5,000.

Documents requested by the attorney general’s office include everything related to the museum and its artwork, from minutes from the Jan. 26 Board of Trustees meeting in which the Board voted to authorize the sale of artwork from the museum, to documents pertaining to the university’s financial need to sell artwork from the Rose Art Museum to the university’s “master plan for use of the proceeds from the sale of collection objects.”

Also according to Section 8H, the documents provided to theattorney general in the investigation will not be disclosed to any other person other than “the authorized agent…of the attorney general.”

The CID also requires that Brandeis provide the entire documents, and electronic copies of the documents if possible.

The attorney general’s office declined to give further comment on the CID.