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Autry National Center names Daniel M. Finley as CEO [updated]

August 13, 2010 |  3:26 pm


The Autry National Center -- which runs the Museum of the American West and the Southwest Museum of the American Indian -- said Friday that it has named Daniel M. Finley as its new president and chief executive officer. Finley will succeed John Gray, who led the Autry for close to 11 years before announcing his retirement this year.

Finley served for close to five years as the head of the Milwaukee Public Museum, an institution devoted to natural history and anthropology. His tenure at the museum was largely devoted to rescuing the institution from a serious financial hole created by declining donations and budget deficits.

Finley In 2005, the Milwaukee Public Museum was in the midst of a serious financial meltdown that threatened its very survival. But the institution has since seen significant fiscal improvements, though furloughs were still being enacted as recently as 2009.

Before joining the Milwaukee Public Museum, Finley served as a county executive at Waukesha County, Wisconsin, from 1991 to 2005.

Finley is set to start his new job on Aug. 31. The Autry said it had conducted a national search by the recruitment firm of Korn/Ferry International. Finley will head an organization with a $14-million annual operating budget and an endowment of approximately $100 million.

Recently, the Autry has been dealing with a frustrated attempt at a $175-million expansion of its facilities, ultimately withdrawing its proposal last year. The organization said this year that it will embark on a seven-year, $75-million renovation of both its Griffith Park museum and an annex building in Burbank.

-- David Ng

[updated: An earlier version of this story said that Daniel M. Finley's first name was David.]

Photo: the Autry National Center. Credit: via truewest.ning.com.

Photo: Daniel M. Finely. Credit: Autry National Center.

Comments () | Archives (5)

Can you please clarify what a "county executive" is? thanks

I keep wondering how long the Autry will continue to lie to the public about its claim it has a $100 million endowment? Any LA Times reporter could go to Guidestar.org and look up the latest Autry tax return. There you will find that Autry's endowment investments in publicly traded securities is only $4.4 million. Where's the $100 million endowment that John Gray keeps claiming and clueless LA Times reporters keep putting into the paper's articles? Oh, it's a pledge that Jackie Autry's estate will pay when she dies. There is a report on this scam as pledges from estates are not supposed to be booked as assets.

The Autry is cash strapped and failing due to poor management. Notice this on the Autry tax return: it is forced to disclose that its books are not kept by an independent accountant. The bookkeeping in-house means the $100 million pledge is recorded in violation of accounting rules. Perhaps the new CEO could bring some truth to the Autry's lies. Perhaps the LA Times could get the facts straight instead of drinking the Autry's kool-aid about its endowment. John Gray leaves a nearly bankrupt organization that mainly lives on Mrs. Autry's $6 million annual cash donation.

From the Milwaukee blog 'Fighting Bob' that covers local politic, etc.

Post: August 11, 2005
Title: Now I'm convinced
Yesterday I wrote about Dan Finley rescuing himself by taking on the Milwaukee Museum for a mere $185,000 per year while the employees, all of whom know more about the museum than Finley, have had salaries slashed and jobs eliminated. But now I'm convinced this is in the public interest. How do I reach that conclusion?

Michael Grebe, former head of Foley&Lardner, former campaign manager for Bob Kasten and now president and CEO of the ultra-right Bradley Foundation, thinks Finley's appointment could mean that the problems created by privatization "could turn out to be a real positive." (Foley represented the Friends of the Museum who fought to privatize the museum.)

I'm not making this up. Grebe, according to MJS, said "the museum's problems have more people thinking about economic development and cultural matters in a regional perspective."

I suppose the Enron scandal was also positive. After all, we now think about energy in the context of manipulation. Whoa Nelly!

Post: August 10, 2005
Finley to his rescue
Talk about sacrifice! Waukesha County Executive Dan Finley often toyed with statewide office but never quite decided to take on a challenge outside the friendly conservative confines of Waukesha County. But, alas, he has now ventured forth into the lion's den of Milwaukee. Finley agreed to rescue himself from a $90,000 per year salary with a $185,000 per year package to run the Milwaukee "Public" Museum.

You might recall our comments on the fiasco called privatization of this treasure. The private board permitted the director of this great institution to come close to bankruptcy. One-third of the employees were fired and the rest took major cutbacks in wages and benefits to save the museum. But not Dan Finley, who will take in all $185,000.

You have to admire the conservatives who took over the museum, ran it into the ground, and now turn to one of their own to rescue the place. His experience in the museum world? None. Was there a search for talent? Sure doesn't look like it got beyond former Lieutenant Governor Maragret Farrow's rolodex. Farrow defended the appointment and the salary, saying, "Any other candidate probably would have come...only if the salary would have been quite a bit higher." (I am not making this up.) We will never know, however, because no other candidates were called.

Ah, the wonders of privatization.

Cities have a City Manager, a county executive is the title Waukesha County gives their county administrator--much like a city manager...The county administrator or executive is the county employee that oversees all county departments and is the liaison between the county board of supervisors and county committees that oversee highway maintenance, public grounds, public buildings, finance and audit, etc.

As a native Californian and a reporter for a newspaper in Northeastern Wisconsin, this article will shed some light on what Dan Finley can do given few creative resources...without his vision, the Milwaukee Public Museum would be just another boarded up building in the urban environment...it is too bad he was lost to California--but as a SoCal, I say go for it, Dan, and do the Singing Cowboy proud!



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