Retiring museum director gets $40K-per-year part-time job

Longtime Tennessee State Museum Director Lois Riggins-Ezzell will go to work for the museum’s fundraising arm when she retires Dec. 31 at a $40,000-per-year salary, reports the Nashville Post.

The board of the Tennessee State Museum Foundation voted to hire Riggins-Ezzell at a meeting Monday that included closed doors for part of the session. The Foundation is a separate entity from the board that oversees the museum itself,.

 But members of the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission, the actual governing body of the museum, are not so sure about the unprecedented move to to keep the 35-year veteran executive director in the same building as her yet-to-be-hired successor, even though Riggins-Ezzell will no longer be a state employee. And with the new salary, plus her state pension of around $52,000, the 76-year-old Riggins-Ezzell will actually make more than her current annual salary of $90,216.

“The Foundation is making decisions for the space that only the Commission can make,” said DHSMC member Victor Ashe. “No other state employee gets these kind of benefits when they retire. What sort of message does that send?”

…After a closed-door discussion from which museum staff and the Post were excluded — but during which substitute chair Dr. Paul McCombs left to present details of the discussion to Riggins-Ezzell — the board voted unanimously to hire Riggins-Ezzell, at $2,000 more per anum than she requested, with a contract that extends through February 2019. (The new Tennessee State Museum building is expected to be completed in December of 2018.)

“It would have torn my heart out not to have been able to remain a part of this team through the fruition of the museum,” Riggins-Ezzell told the board after the vote. 

What duties, specifically, will Riggins-Ezzell perform? That will be determined later, when she writes up her formal job description.

“She didn’t give us a formal thing,” confirmed McCombs after the meeting, when asked if Riggins-Ezzell had included a written proposal in the agenda packet. When asked where her office would be, as the Foundation has none (nor any other paid staff at all), McCombs replied, “It will be in a conference room here at the museum.”

(Thomas Smith, chairman of the commission, said in an email to fellow commissioners that “that it would bebest in my opinion for Lois not to have an office at the museum.”)

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