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Military museum in California closes unexpectedly

Associated Press Updated: June 22, 2014 at 2:45 pm 0

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California museum dedicated to California's involvement in U.S. military history has closed quietly and unexpectedly.

The Sacramento Bee reported Sunday (http://tinyurl.com/mqwvdnv ) that the California State Military Museum in Sacramento closed in March amid a dispute over its management. A nonprofit foundation runs the day-to-day operations. The California Military Department oversees the museum.

The dispute and the state's budget woes led to the museum's closure. The department stopped funding the museum and its direct subsidy was also halted. The museum received about $170,000 a year from the department and state.

The military department sued the foundation in September, alleging the nonprofit claimed to own 90 percent of the artifacts and interfered with a state audit. The California State Military Museum Foundation countered in court papers that most of the artifacts were donated to it. The foundation also denied interfering with the audit.

The department is seeking ownership of the artifacts and exclusive control of the museum.

The legal dispute stems from a bigger disagreement over control of the museum. State law gives the nonprofit authority to operate the museum while public money makes up a large part of its funding.

"The fact that the California military museum foundation was referred to directly in state law is very unusual and unorthodox, and quite frankly, improper," said Lt. Col. Darrin Bender, chief of state policy and liaison for the department.

A lawyer for the nonprofit declined comment on the lawsuit. The foundation said in an April statement that lawsuit is "predatory in nature and designed to put the foundation out of business."

As part of the budget package, Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed into law a measure handing control of the museum to the state. The new law deletes direct references to the foundation and says the department can enter into operating agreements with "nonprofit historical foundations, military museums, historical societies or other entities to conduct museum activities."

The future of the museum is uncertain. The lawsuit over ownership of the artifacts must be resolved first, Bender said.

Meanwhile, military historians are lamenting the museum's closure, which partners with the military museum on donations.

"It takes away history that we would like to see showcased," said Roxanne Yonn, executive director and curator of the Aerospace Museum of California. "It would be a shame to not have it available to the public to showcase in the capital city."

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