U.S. Rep. Mike Turner declared Wednesday he will draft legislation to remove the congressional charter of the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
The Dayton Republican congressman’s move comes as National Aviation Hall of Fame President Michael J. Quiello has defended the nonprofit’s reputation and denied Turner’s claims in the midst of the congressman’s allegation in a Jan. 25 letter that said his office had received “complaints of financial mismanagement and misappropriation of NAHF resources and assets.”
The charter is largely symbolic, but it gives the image that an organization has congressional support.
In a letter Wednesday to its board chairman, Turner, R-Dayton, said the organization was in a state of “financial crisis, and requires immediate, broad public support to ensure it’s sustainability” and has stated for several years it may move the hall out of Dayton.
The congressman has said he is in the midst with community leaders to form a “blue ribbon panel” to proceed with the inquiry and put the Hall of Fame on a path to financial stability.
Quiello has said the organization’s trustees have the expertise to deal with the financial challenges the nonprofit has faced in recent years. Dayton attorney David C. Greer, a lawyer representing the organization, also sent the congressman a letter this week telling Turner he had no oversight authority or legal right to demand documents from the organization, which the congressman asked to receive by a March 3 deadline.
In an interview this week, Quiello said: “The trustees are just kind of frustrated because we don’t know what he is trying to accomplish here other than having us make a vote to pick up the Hall of Fame and move to another city.”
He also said the nonprofit would cooperate with Turner’s blue ribbon panel only if it intended to restore the Hall of Fame’s reputation in the midst of the congressman’s inquiry, and work to strengthen ties with the community to support the group’s mission.
Turner said Wednesday the group’s congressional charter makes it subject to congressional oversight. Any attempts at “thwarting any efforts” to discover the extent of the nonprofit’s financial difficulties was “abhorrent,” he said.
The NAHF has lost money for several years, GuideStar records show. In 2015, it reported losing more than $185,000.
Board of Trustees pay their own travel-related expenses to reach Dayton, and have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the nonprofit, Quiello has said.
In both a Wednesday letter to NAHF Chairman William R. Harris, Jr., and in an interview, Turner criticized the nonprofit for talk of potentially leaving Dayton.
“The National Aviation Hall of Fame has to stop threatening Dayton, Ohio,” he said. “For the last five years, every time that there’s any issues with respect to their finances their first inclination is to threaten to leave. This needs to stop. It’s outrageous that the president of the National Aviation Hall of Fame answer to he doesn’t want to tell us where he’s spending his money is that he would leave Dayton.”
Turner released a press release Wednesday that made reference to Quiello’s comments in an interview.
Greer’s most recent Feb. 14 letter to the congressman asked Turner to provide the complaints he said launched the inquiry, and added: “I hope that we can mutually agree to avoid press releases with emotive and unjustified subject lines and that you will permit me to work cooperatively with your Panel for the good of the NAHF and the community. That way we can avoid a headline reading “NAHF Kicked Out of Dayton By Congressman.”
Turner said the congressional charter means the nonprofit is recognized as the National Aviation Hall of Fame for the United States. “Obviously,if you lose your congressional charter your ability to raise funds is impacted, but it’s not prohibited,” he said.
The NAHF did not immediately respond Wednesday evening to a request for comment to Turner’s latest remarks.
In December, the NAHF board voted 15-12 to break a decades-old tradition and move an annual black-tie enshrinement gala out of the Dayton region for the first time since started 1962. The dinner is set for October in Fort Worth, Texas. The move upset many in the community.
Hall of Fame officials have said they long studied the move as part of a business strategy to broaden the nonprofit’s national recognition as a nationwide organization and raise more money than it could in Dayton. The NAHF is in the midst of the three-year, $5 million campaign to build its endowment and update its Learning Center at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Our military affairs reporter Barrie Barber continues to follow this developing story. Follow him on Twitter at @BarrieBarber for the latest news. Here’s a look at his coverage in recent months: