Nineteenth Century Club members accused of getting perks for chi - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Nineteenth Century Club members accused of getting perks for children's museum donation

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - The battle over what to do with the Nineteenth Century Club on Union Avenue continues to raise concerns and questions.

Preservationists say club board members received perks in exchange for a $435,000 donation to the Children's Museum of Memphis. The club says that's not true.

A copy of the sponsorship agreement between the club and museum shows that the club did donate $435,000 from the sale of the mansion, to the museum. It also lists 13 items the museum will provide to club members.

Among the list of items, Nineteenth Century Club members get office and storage space at the museum, including the use of some office equipment.

And that is not all.

University of Memphis Law Professor Steve Mulroy is the pro bono attorney for Memphis Heritage, the group that wants to preserve the 106-year-old mansion from being demolished.

"They're apparently supposed to get lifetime memberships to the Children's Museum," said Steve Mulroy, Memphis Heritage's attorney.

Mulroy says perks are not allowed in this kind of exchange.

"I don't think that's technically legal and I think that would be grounds for the attorney general to not approve the sale," he added.

Attorney Art Quinn represents the Nineteenth Century Club. He says this was not a case of quid pro quo.

"It's my understanding that provision was not offered by the club. It was offered by the museum," said Quinn.

He says the club has been in environmental court for three years trying to save the mansion and it ran out of money.

"They eventually got two different real estate agents to list this. Nobody in this community stepped forward to help preserve this during that period of time," explained Quinn.

Mulroy says it is a win-win situation.

"If we win, not only would the children's museum get some money, but a historic building, the last great mansion on Union Avenue, will be saved. I'm asking what is wrong with that?" said Mulroy.

Quinn points out the agreement also included 100 tickets per year for economically disadvantaged children to go to the museum.

"It's just unfortunate the efforts to save this building could not have been done in a manner that brought the community together," said Quinn.

The museum president says he is not familiar with the clause in the agreement allowing the tickets. The issue has not come up in court.

The Heritage Foundation says its main argument is that some of the board members were not included in the vote to sell the mansion.

The next court hearing is at the end of the month. In the meantime, demolition is on hold.

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