The National Civic Art Society—an organization comprising classical architects and conservative think-tank figures that has led the opposition to a design by Frank Gehry, FAIA, for the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial—put out a release questioning the procedures by which the Eisenhower Memorial Commission came by that design.
“In light of the recent abuses of the public trust and taxpayer funds by the General Services Administration (GSA), the National Civic Art Society encourages an exploration of whether the Eisenhower Memorial Commission followed all appropriate legal and ethical procedures in authorizing the use the GSA Design Excellence Program to select an architect for the Eisenhower Memorial,” says the statement, which was released yesterday. “The selection of the GSA Design Excellence Program for the Eisenhower Memorial created a de facto closed competition.”
Specifically, the National Civic Art Society alleges that decisions made between July 2007 and March 2009 were not recorded in official meeting minutes. The release speculates that the “missing minutes” concern important decisions regarding the memorial, including the approval of the GSA’s Design Excellence Program as a rubric for selecting the design and the restriction of potential candidates to U.S. citizens, among other decisions.
“[I]f those 2008 meetings were not official, why are they even mentioned in the 2009 minutes?” asks the statement. “What was the procedural status of those meetings under the Commission’s bylaws? Furthermore, was there due notice of those meetings? Were all Commissioners invited to attend them? The National Civic Art Society believes that these questions deserve careful scrutiny, particularly since the Eisenhower Memorial Commission and General Services Administration have already wasted millions of dollars of taxpayer money to get to this stage in the design process.”
The National Civic Art Society notes an exchange between House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands chairman Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and retired Brig. Gen. Carl Reddel, who serves as the executive director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. Gen. Reddel testified before the House subcommittee at a March 20 hearing. During one exchange, Gen. Reddel noted that the Eisenhower Memorial Commission did not host a full meeting between July 2007 and March 2009.
Asked for a response, a spokesperson for the Eisenhower Memorial Commission said that the National Civic Art Society had its answer—there were no minutes from that period because there were no full meetings at the time.
“We are not going to dignify the Civic Arts club’s attack on the millions of hard-working Americans who go to work for their government, every day, in the service of this great nation—including our small staff of seven people,” the Eisenhower Memorial Commission said in a statement provided to ARCHITECT. “The club impugns the integrity of the Commission, which includes four Senators, four Members of the House of Representatives, and four Americans appointed by the President of the United States, including David Eisenhower, who served as a commissioner for over a decade.”
David Eisenhower resigned from the Commission in December.
“As for the ‘phantom’ minutes the club seems to imagine, the answer appears on page two of the club’s own release,” the statement continues, “in which Commission executive director General Carl Reddel, appearing at a hearing before a U.S. Congress subcommittee, clearly stated, ‘... the business of the commission at that time did not include a full commission meeting.’ ”