For months, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation (the “Foundation”) has been working hard and in good faith to negotiate with the State of Illinois and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) to reach a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to govern the relationship between the parties. Unfortunately, we were unable to come to an agreement.
Throughout the negotiations, the State and ALPLM were inconsistent, unreasonable and threatening in their demands, and spreading misinformation about the Foundation, leading us to question if they were indeed negotiating with us in good faith. As importantly, they also consistently demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of the Foundation’s role and responsibilities as an independent 501 (c) (3) organization. The Foundation is not a subsidiary of, nor vendor to the State of Illinois.
Early in the process, the State and ALPLM had insisted on – and repeatedly and adamantly refused to extend – a March 31 deadline to reach a new agreement. This arbitrary deadline was at odds with the State’s fiscal year and predated the start date of the ALPLM’s newly-appointed executive director by at least two months.
We are puzzled and disappointed at this entirely-avoidable outcome. We are especially shocked and dismayed that, on March 31, the State and ALPLM unilaterally moved to evict the Foundation from our offices, barred new members from a valued benefit: complementary visits to the ALPLM, and blocked our ability to add as members visitors to the ALPLM.
In our last discussion with the ALPLM late on March 31, we were told by them that they were open to continuing the conversation. As a result, we were blindsided today when they made broad public announcements, including their desire to set up a separate foundation.
As a result of the State and ALPLM’s heavy-handed and punitive tactics, we are left with no choice but to temporarily suspend our discretionary financial support to the ALPLM. The Foundation has historically existed to provide support and maximize resources for the benefit of the ALPLM, which has amounted to over $42 million since the Museum and Library opened to the public.
While we remain open to a resumption of good faith negotiations and call on the State and ALPLM to reverse their punitive actions, we now believe a reasonable path forward is for the parties to wait until the new ALPLM executive director begins work in June and then the leaders of the two institutions can meet with the assistance of an impartial mediator and work towards a new Memorandum of Understanding that reflects the needs and interests of all parties.
President Lincoln said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The Foundation sadly agrees and remains committed to working towards better days ahead.