A $200,000 settlement between the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and George P. Bush’s Texas General Land Office has apparently rubbed the Lone Star State’s governor the wrong way. The deal also relinquishes thousands of Alamo artifacts.
A memo written by Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Daniel Hodge states:
This payment of $200,000 in taxpayer funds to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas is regrettable. It was also avoidable. Had the General Land Office more vigorously defended the State’s interests in this matter, the agency would not have found itself in a position in which the DRT can demand this settlement. If the DRT were truly interested in what is best for the Alamo, they would not demand an exorbitant payment of state funds that could have been spent for the benefit for the Alamo. The Governor allows this settlement to take place solely out of deference to the independent constitutional officeholder requesting it.
The $200,000 in taxpayer funds referenced is for reimbursement for litigation expenses. The historic Texas relics to be surrendered include 38,000 books, flags, maps, and other artifacts, as reported by ABC News. The collection has been housed at the Alamo for over 70 years. The artifacts will be moved to the Texas A&M San Antonio campus.
The case was set to go to trial in San Antonio later this month.
A few months after he took office, Land Commissioner Bush announced that he was conducting “a nationwide search for a new management company” for the Alamo. The week before this announcement, the GLO relieved the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) from their management responsibilities of the Alamo. The DRT responded by suing.
The DRT is credited with saving the Alamo 110 years ago, but the management and operation of the Alamo by the DRT came under heavy fire in 2011 by the Texas Legislature and the Office of the Attorney General. Governor Greg Abbott was the attorney general at the time. The DRT has managed the Alamo since 1905.
Breitbart Texas reported in March of 2015 that Texans were seeing red at the thought of non-Texans managing the historic shrine. The newly-elected land commissioner noted there would be a 120-day transition period and said the search for a new management company would be country-wide.
The reaction from Texans was quick and strong. Breitbart Texas published an article that laid out various responses which included one from a former Republican senatorial district chairman. He posted an article about the transition on his Facebook page and made this comment about the possibility of someone out-of-state managing the Alamo – “If George P. Bush hires non-Texans to run the Alamo, it will be the end of his short career.”
In an initial response to an inquiry about the possibility of the management being awarded to an out-of-state entity, GLO Press Secretary Brittany Eck released a long statement to Breitbart Texas which can be found here.
In essence, the GLO replied, “The owner of the Alamo is and will continue to be the people of Texas. The custodian of the Alamo will remain the Texas General Land Office. The operations service vendor contract will be maintained by the Alamo Endowment.” It also stated that “the DRT will continue to have a place of honor with the Alamo,” but added “This change simply allows a professional organization with expertise in managing major historic sites to manage operations as a contracted vendor under the strict oversight of the Texas General Land Office, the Alamo Endowment Board, and the San Antonio-based Director of the Alamo, Becky Dinnin.”
In 2011, then Attorney General Greg Abbott did an investigation into the financial management and conservation of the Alamo and its artifacts. The 38-page report, as reported by the San Antonio Express-News, faulted the leadership of the DRT with failure to preserve the historical Texas site. It also alleged that the leadership of the volunteer organization had misappropriated state funds and failed to raise the capital to take care of the Alamo. There were even allegations of inappropriate claims of ownership of artifacts. The report stated “It should be noted that the misconduct detailed in this report is largely attributable to the DRT’s leadership — and that conduct should not detract from the individual DRT members who tirelessly and selflessly served the Alamo for over a century.”
The Texas Legislature responded in 2011 and passed a bill that transferred control of the Alamo to the General Land Office (GLO). As reported by Breitbart Texas, the DRT filed suit to block the transfer of power but were unsuccessful. The GLO and the DRT then signed an eighteen month contract for the DRT to continue operations under the oversight of the GLO. This management was later terminated.
There have also been gift compliance issues associated with the donation of Alamo and Texas artifacts by singer Phil Collins. His donation requires that a visitor center and museum be built to house these artifacts. According to the March 2015 statement issued by Land Commissioner Bush, “The Alamo Endowment has been reconstituted as a major capital campaign to raise millions of dollars needed for an Alamo museum and visitor center worthy of Phil Collins’ renowned collection of historic artifacts.” The GLO website states, “In a few years, you will be able to see the entire collection in a world-class Alamo museum and visitors center. Plans for that museum, and for re-imaging the Alamo experience, are being drawn up now.”