Lawyer: Congressman Turner has no oversight over Aviation Hall of Fame

Dayton lawmaker to launch panel to investigate group’s finances

An attorney for the National Aviation Hall of Fame says Congressman Mike Turner has no oversight authority or legal right to demand documents from the organization.

Turner, R-Dayton, has launched an inquiry into the group. In a Jan. 25 letter to the Hall of Fame, Turner said his office had “received complaints of financial mismanagement and misappropriation of NAHF resources and assets.”

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The president of the nonprofit organization says it will only cooperate with a panel Turner intends to form if it will restore the reputation of the Aviation Hall and its trustees and strengthen ties with the community to support the group’s mission.

“The trustees are just kind of frustrated because we don’t know what he’s trying to accomplish here other than have us make a vote to pick up the Hall of Fame and move it to some other city that’s welcoming to us,” NAHF President Michael J. Quiello said in an interview Tuesday.

He added the Hall of Fame Board of Trustees of business executives, financial experts, retired generals and astronauts, among others, “is fully capable and has the expertise to solve any problems” the organization faces.

The Hall of Fame is located at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Turner’s probe was launched more than a month after the Hall of Fame said it was moving the annual enshrinement ceremony out of the Dayton region for one year in 2017 to Fort Worth, Texas.

Turner, who has said he has worked with the board for years, did not reveal who made the complaints or present evidence to support the allegations at the time. Quiello has denied the claims and the group’s attorney has called on Turner to stop use of the term “investigation.”

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On Tuesday, Turner pointed to the Air Force museum director barring the return of a NAHF enshrinement dinner to the museum after the Oct. 1 event at the facility as one of his causes of concern.

The congressman released a Nov. 28, 2016 letter from museum director John Hudson to the NAHF chairman William R. Harris Jr. that said the facility could not support future enshrinement ceremonies because the event’s requirements “far exceed the rules of engagement” set fourth in an agreement. Among other issues, the letter cited security concerns in exhibit areas, limited access and visibility, and the museum expending “large amounts of labor” to set up, tear down for the ceremony and manage visitors.

“I had to intervene and get the policy reversed so they could go back if they wanted to,” Turner said in an interview.

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“The Department of the Air Force doesn’t send letters like this for no cause and we want to make certain things like this don’t happen again (and) that the Aviation Hall of Fame has a long and prosperous stay at the Air Force museum in our community,” the congressman added.

A museum spokesman said Hudson was unavailable for an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Quiello said the enshrinement turnout of about 650 people was more than the museum could handle and that created issues with getting out and cleaning up on time. In a letter Tuesday to Turner, Greer denied any breach of contract by any party and said “all issues” between the museum and the NAHF were resolved in December. The Hall of Fame agreed to pay $2,080 to the museum to host the event.

The Dayton Convention Center, which has hosted the black-tie gala dubbed the “Oscar Night of Aviation” in past years, was inadequate to meet modern standards for the ceremony, Quiello said. “The museum couldn’t handle the number of people who had shown up and the convention center was an inadequate facility for us,” he said.

He added ties between the NAHF and the museum and Hudson remain strong. “If this is an attempt to drive a wedge between us, it isn’t going to work,” Quiello said.

Turner, who said he has the backing of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utan, for the inquiry, has asked the Hall of Fame to submit a range of documents by a March 3 deadline. The blue ribbon panel’s intent is meant to put the Hall of Fame on a path of financial stability, the congressman has said.

NAHF officials have said the congressman’s staff is welcome to review records at its offices. GuideStar records show the NAHF has lost money for several years. The loss last year was in excess of $185,000, records show.

Quiello also has expressed concerns Turner’s claims could adversely impact a $5 million “Come With Us” fundraising campaign to build the organization’s endowment and modernize its Learning Center inside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

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