The Sad, Absurd Chronicle of Incompetence at the Alamo

Alamo.jpg
It's something of a head-scratcher why the Texas Legislature decided in 1905 to entrust the Daughters of the Republic of Texas with the care and preservation of the Alamo, site of one of the fiercest -- and most pivotal -- battles of the Texas war for independence. The DRT is a primarily genealogical organization with no expertise in managing historic properties or cultural sites. To become a member, one needs only be a woman, pay dues, and have ancestors who lived in Texas before it became a state.

In retrospect, it seems obvious that such a group would be poorly equipped to oversee the Alamo, but it was only in February 2010, when Attorney General Greg Abbott's office received a detailed complaint from a member, that it started to become clear what a mess they had made of things.

The woman was later booted from the group for bringing "discredit" to the organization, but her missive was enough to set off an extensive investigation by Abbott's office into the workings of the DRT and its oversight of the Alamo. The final report was completed this month and posted today by Texas Watchdog.

The DRT does not come out looking particularly good. The report sums things up in the first paragraph:

The OAG's investigation concluded that the DRT failed to fulfill its fiduciary duty to the State of Texas as trustee of the historic Alamo. Specifically, the DRT did not properly preserve and maintain the Alamo, misused state funds for the organization's own benefit, failed to recognize or address conflicts of interest, and allowed its own organizational prerogatives to interfere with its duty to act in the best interests of the State of Texas and the Alamo.

But such a brief synopsis doesn't adequately convey just how poorly things were run. For starters, take the DRT's most basic function, the preservation of the building itself. Between 2006 and 2009, the organization devoted a whopping $350 of the annual $6 million state budget to preservation. A 2007 master plan, developed at a cost of $96,000, was supposed to spell out the DRT's long-term preservation efforts but was unceremoniously scrapped.

All that was despite glaring structural problems and decade-old leaks that begged for repair. It wasn't until an 8-by-4-inch chunk of ceiling fell 20 feet to the floor below that the DRT began the repair process, and even then it took the urging of Governor Rick Perry.

In the meantime, the DRT was spending considerable energy looking out for number one. In 2007, it began a $60 million capital campaign, of which $1.6 million was earmarked for preservation, $10 million for improvements to DRT's library. That campaign petered out in 2008 after netting just $1.6 million.

When it became clear that the capital campaign had failed, the DRT began looking for other revenue sources. They found one in the Alamo itself, which they tried to trademark. This might not have been such a bad idea were they filing for a trademark on behalf of the state of Texas, or if they had some sort of official imprimatur for doing so, but they didn't. They submitted the application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on their own behalf, then refused to back down when the state objected.

The fight dragged on for several months before they reached a settlement, with both sides arming themselves with private trademark attorneys. To add another layer of absurdity, the AG's report determined that the DRT was improperly paying its lawyers with state funds, setting up a situation in which the state of Texas was funding a prolonged legal battle against the state of Texas.

The DRT also used state funds to lobby against the 2011 law that ultimately transferred control of the Alamo to the General Land Office and to pay part of an illegal, $900,000 contract with an L.A.-based marketing firm to promote a March 2011 concert marking the 175th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo. The contract and concert were canceled after it became clear that DRT didn't have the sponsors it said it did.

The AG's report goes on to detail myriad organizational problems within the DRT, which can best be summarized by examining the position of executive director, which the DRT board decided, in January 2010, that the Alamo no longer needed. They changed their mind a few months later, but instead of casting a wide net and selecting a candidate with a background in historic preservation, tourism or nonprofits, they picked a guy who had applied to replace the longtime director of security, who had just been fired.

The AG's office did not approve.

"Although unique professional skills are necessary to oversee a historic structure like the Alamo, the DRT did not conduct a broad-based search for a qualified, professional chief executive," the report says. "Instead, the DRT selected an Alamo Director whose most recent professional endeavor involved overseeing security at a shopping mall."

The Alamo is now in the apparently competent hands of the General Land Office, which has requested an extra $1 million during the upcoming budget cycle to fund some of the repairs.

As for the DRT, its president, Karen Thompson, told the San Antonio Express-News that the organization is "shocked at the outrageously inaccurate conclusions within the report."

Update at 3:36 p.m.: DRT forwarded me a copy of their media release regarding the report, which is posted below. They say they are working on a more detailed response that will be released in the coming days.

On Tuesday evening, Karen R. Thompson, President General of The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Inc., issued the following statement regarding a report released by the Texas Office of the Attorney General:

"This evening, we learned from the news media that after two and a half years, the OAG has released a report regarding our organization," said Thompson. "We are very disappointed that our organization did not receive the courtesy of a copy directly from Greg Abbott's office," continued Thompson.

"Further, DRT is shocked at the outrageously inaccurate conclusions within the report," said Thompson. "It is important to note that the OAG report contains no required changes for DRT to be compliant with State law," said Thompson.

The OAG report focuses on issues identified nearly three years ago that have already been resolved through contractual and organizational restructuring including:

-Leadership changes within the DRT
-Revisions to DRT Bylaws and Manual of Procedure to comply with state laws
-A strong working relationship with the GLO through an interim operating agreement for Alamo complex operations
-Continued external auditing with stringent financial controls
-A cooperative partnership with state agencies for preservation programs

"It seems that this report, which includes only interviews with disavowed members and former employees, is not an accurate description of DRT in 2012," said Thompson.

Thompson also noted that since 2010, OAG investigators denied five requests to meet with DRT leadership and staff.

"Our general counsel and staff are currently reviewing the 38-page report and a detailed formal response from DRT is forthcoming," concluded Thompson.


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12 comments
JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Multiply this by 100 = Fair Park

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

I grew up in San Antonio and always found the drive by the Alamo a stirring event, even with it being plopped down in an ugly part of downtown. One day my father took my brother and me for a visit. The grounds, walls, and cannon spiked our imaginations. But then we went inside. It was dark, damp and gloomy and filled with scraps of dirty looking artifacts. This was the early '60s. The DTR are bat shit crazy. Let the state own it and subcontract operations and ownership to the city, which has done very well with a large portfolio of historical properties. A lot of these DTR (doofusTexan reprobates) women have no to little contact with San Antonio. Let them volunteer digging at archaelogical sites.

sarah.reveley
sarah.reveley

I'm the Daughter who filed the complaint with the OAG in the first place. The GLO is keeping them, even after all this news! Please sign my petition to our legislators to remove the DRT from the Alamo at  http://www.change.org/petitions/texas-state-legislature-amend-hb-3726-to-exclude-the-drt-as-managers-of-the-alamo . There's a good story on Channel 5 

http://www.kens5.com/news/Report-slams-DRT-over-care-for-Alamo-180471311.html .Thanks for reading, now please help me get them out for good!!!

pak152
pak152

't's something of a head-scratcher why the Texas Legislature decided in 1905 to entrust the Daughters of the Republic of Texas with the care and preservation of the Alamo,"

really? you don't know why?

"n the 1890s, Adina de Zavala, granddaughter of Mexican-born Texas patriot Lorenzo de Zavala and first vice president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT), extracted a promise from merchant Gaston Schmeltzer that he would sell her the convento building for $75,000. But her fund raising stalled short of the goal. In February 1904, Clara Driscoll, from a wealthy San Antonio family, advanced at no interest the $25,000 needed to hold the convento until the Legislature appropriated the purchase price. She was partially reimbursed by the state in 1905, and the Legislature entrusted both convento and chapel to the DRT. Although Driscoll is called the "Savior of the Alamo," the Alamo itself already belonged to the state. What Driscoll saved was the convento."

http://www.texasalmanac.com/topics/history/alamo

"Under an act of April 23, 1883, Texas purchased from the church the Alamo property and placed the Alamo in the custody of the city of San Antonio on condition that the city should care for the building and pay a custodian for that purpose. This system continued until January 25, 1905, when the Texas legislature passed a resolution ordering the governor to purchase that part of the old Alamo fortress occupied by a business concern. It was further ordered that the governor should deliver the property thus acquired, with the property then owned by the state (the chapel of the Alamo), to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas."

http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/uqa01Saving the Alamohttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daughters_of_the_Republic_of_Texas#Saving_the_Alamo

MariaB
MariaB

Have they ever turned a profit with the rental car business?

Bobtex
Bobtex

To answer your first question:  The DRT got to take care of the Alamo because the DRT saved the Alamo from disintegration and destruction.  After Texas' independence was won, the Alamo was not considered a shrine at all.  The building lay in ruins, most of its outbuildings had been destroyed, and it was just an almost forgotten footnote east of the growing community that San Antonio was in the last half of the 149th Century.  The roof was gone, and parts of the walls were caved in.  At some point the roof was replaced and the facade that is familiar to us now was installed (the front of the building did not originally have that distinctive look that it now has.

 

No one, not the city, the county, the state, the federal government, or any private benefactor wanted to spend a dime to preserve, or rehabilitate it, or restore it, or maintain it.  The good ladies of the DRT took this mission as their mission, and persuaded the state to let them take it over, fix it up, and preserve it for future generations.  That is how they got possession early in the 20th Century.

 

Now, most of your criticisms of their stewardship since then may be valid, but they do not invalidate the basic truth that there would be no Alamo today at Alamo Plaza were it not for their efforts for more than 100 years.  Whatever its future may be, the Alamo is indebted to its saviors for preserving its past.

sarah.reveley
sarah.reveley

 @Bobtex Actually, they got it thanks to Adina DeZavala who learned about the sale of the building next to the Alamo. because the legislature was out of session and Clara had deep pockets, and was paid back. Have you researched all the catfights, and what Clara said when she resigned in 1906? Do you know where all the funds came from for all of the restoration work?  The state and the federal government and donations from others. Adina was kicked out by the DRT also! Do your homework and learn the facts.

 

GuitarPlayer
GuitarPlayer

 @Bobtex That's great.......but where did the fucking millions go? Does the DRT think they are entitled to these funds. I mean, I wouldn't put it past them to think that.

Bobtex
Bobtex

 @sarah.reveley

 I did my homework and I learned the facts.  Now, why don't you re-read my comment and not try to divert our attention with your titillating gossip about catfights and internal political squabbles in the DRT.  I did not comment on the report at all, but I just answered the question as to how the DRT got possession of the Alamo.

 

Yes, the state owned the chapel for many years, and did nothing to protect or preserve it.  Yes, the DRT caused the acquisition of the convento property to the chapel property.  Yes, the DRT managed the property all these years,and I expressly withheld judgment on the quality of their stewardship.

 

Whether the DRT managed the Alamo well, or poorly, or a little bit of both, is another debate.  That the DRT was appointed by the State to manage it is beyond question.

 

And, no, I really don't care what Clara said to Adina, or what Adina said to Clara, or what you said to the Attorney General or the Land Commissioner, or anyone else, for that matter.

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