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A Woman Scorned

Former Laumeier Director Beej Nierengarten-Smith points fingers and names names in her parting shot from THE Sculpture Park. She lets it fly, and some of it sticks.


"I got a chuckle at the Laumeier Board meeting last week, hearing Lou Sachs got his coveted sculpture," retired banker and Laumeier Sculpture Park co-founder Adam Aronson wrote to St. Louis County Executive George "Buzz" Westfall in March 1999. "I could practically see him sticking out his tongue at Beej Smith and saying 'Yah, yah, yah, I got it back, albeit at Faust Park. I got it away from you, begad."'

A copy of this letter can be found within the appendixes of Beej Nierengarten-Smith's 165-page report on the history of Laumeier, submitted to the St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Department as fulfillment of her final duty as a civil servant after 21 years as director of the sculpture park. Three thick three-ring binders, filled with long-neglected strategic plans, contracts, catalogs and correspondence, accompany Nierengarten-Smith's report.

The "Confidential Internal Report" was commissioned by county parks director Genie Zakrzewski after she unceremoniously removed Nierengarten-Smith from office last fall. Zakrzewski is one of the few who had the nerve to stand up to Nierengarten-Smith, going so far as to deny her a merit increase in 2000. Zakrzewski characterizes Nierengarten-Smith's notes from exile as a litany of "finger-pointing, editorials, how it was everybody else's fault. She tried to say something bad about every person who was involved. This is her editorial, and I don't know why she did it."

And Nierengarten-Smith did it with the taxpayers supplying her writer's fee, approximately $28,500 -- half her yearly salary as a county civil servant -- right up until her retirement on May 1. "Yeah," Zakrzewski deadpans, "life goes on, I suppose. It's unfortunate."

Few of the documents Nierengarten-Smith has archived are as outlandish, or as telling, as Aronson's missive to Westfall. The Aronson letter reflects shifts in power, or shifts in the attitudes of the powerful, and touches on Laumeier's past, present and future.

It shows how Nierengarten-Smith had fallen in the esteem of Aronson, the man who plucked her from the local public-school system (she had taught at Mehlville High School) to oversee Laumeier, his legacy. He placed her in the high-profile international art world, then defended her from critics throughout her embattled tenure. In 1995, Aronson fought fiercely to keep Nierengarten-Smith in place when the Laumeier board of trustees attempted to sack her.

But only four years after her firing was averted, Nierengarten-Smith had become a joke two old cronies could chuckle over. The sculpture, William King's "Solstice," had been purchased by Chesterfield developer Sachs to be placed on a planned Laumeier annex near his Chesterfield Mall, but with the stipulation that the piece would belong to Laumeier and would eventually be returned to the park. "Solstice" traveled over the years, from Chesterfield to Laumeier and ultimately to Faust Park, not far from Sachs' mall. Nierengarten-Smith vehemently opposed losing "Solstice" to another county park. So the sculpture's final destination leaves Aronson chuckling, imagining a pink tongue stuck in Nierengarten-Smith's face: Yah, yah, yah.

The art world is not as glamorous as people think.

Aronson's letter speaks to Laumeier's future as well. Aronson, the man who gave the sculpture park Nierengarten-Smith, and who declined to speak with the Riverfront Times, has been integrally involved in the selection process of the new director and has partly funded the position with his own money. Laumeier's shady past remains inextricably linked to Laumeier's uncertain future.

Laumeier Sculpture Park is as much a story about St. Louis as it is a story about art.

Hundreds of employees have passed through Laumeier over the last 25 years. Many of them, after experiencing a nightmare working for the park, had to pick up their lives and re-establish themselves elsewhere. Their sufferings involved the imperious director; a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil board of trustees; and a county executive, Westfall, averse to public confrontation. Few who worked in the offices or on the grounds got away easily from Laumeier, except those with the power, position and privilege to allow themselves immunity from responsibility: in essence, a St. Louis story.

One of those employees, former Laumeier business manager Bryan Knicely, after he was fired by those in power, filed suit against Nierengarten-Smith and the board, alleging, among other things, that the director had appraised and shipped her personal collection of Brazilian folk art at Laumeier's expense. A legal dispute with an underling is distasteful to those now touting the "new" Laumeier, especially because the suit is about to be settled, with Knicely receiving compensation.

With a new director hired and a dual-governance agreement forged between the county and the park's nonprofit board, the atmosphere at the "new" Laumeier is significantly more rosy than Knicely found it.

Harold Goodman, a lawyer who became board chairman in 2000, is euphoric. "The attitude today of the board of trustees and the people involved with Laumeier, including the staff, is that it's one of an enthusiastic partnership with St. Louis County," he says, "a feeling that we're moving forward, whatever problems we've had in the past -- and there's no point in discussing them [our italics] -- whatever problems we've had in the past are behind us. The objective now is to move forward. And that's exactly what we're doing."

Nobody's singing, "Ding-dong, the witch is dead" -- at least not on the record -- but nobody's admitting that anything was wrong, either, or that anyone was responsible for the thornier past. When Goodman is asked to address questions about the "old" Laumeier, he grins and asks, "Why?"

Many of the principals in Laumeier's ongoing quarter-century melodrama -- a group that has excused, ignored or denied park malfeasance and mismanagement for years -- are back on the board for return engagements.

Most significantly, the indomitable Aronson remains. For 25 years he's been the force at Laumeier, which he helped create with then-parks director Wayne Kennedy and local sculptor Ernest Trova. Now, with Nierengarten-Smith gone, he is central to Laumeier's reconstruction efforts. His proprietary hold over the park has not weakened, although he has neither title nor legal claim. Aronson's belief in his right to the Laumeier legacy is reflected in his unsuccessful attempt to lure the St. Louis Art Museum into becoming overseer of the park in return for a $1 million donation. The park was not Aronson's to give, but this did not stop him from making the offer.

Rebuffed by the museum, Aronson ensured his influence over Laumeier for years to come by helping endow the new director's position, with the University of Missouri-St. Louis pitching in to contribute a professorship to the director as well. Aronson was integrally involved in the search process. Goodman praises Aronson for being "especially helpful -- he did a tremendous amount of background work on these people."

Aronson and the others return as if untainted by the "problems" of the past -- "and there's no point in discussing them." They return in a manner not unlike the way in which Wordsworth described the French going back to the emperor after the Revolution, like "the dog/Returning to his vomit." You can do that in St. Louis, if you have the power, position and privilege to get away with it.

Board chairman Goodman, for example, formerly vice president and chief financial officer for the board since 1996, admits that he was responsible for monitoring Nierengarten-Smith's expenses. In fulfilling this duty, he approved of at least five trips to Santa Fe, N.M. -- at Laumeier's expense -- ostensibly for the director to research Latin American art. Although she and her husband, psychiatrist James Smith, coincidentally were building a retirement home there, Goodman did not see this as a conflict. He had "no concern about her expenses." He considered Nierengarten-Smith a "professional."

However, in 1998, the accounting firm of Ernst & Young reported concerns over expenses in their audit for that year. "The Park has no formal policy for the review and approval of officers' expenses," they noted, although Goodman says, "I was perfectly capable of monitoring her expenses and did so."

In 1998-99, Nierengarten-Smith's expenses exceeded $23,000. Laumeier's tax records for 1999 show $32,000 going to travel expenses alone. The nonprofit paid for the lease on her Jeep Cherokee, including gas and upkeep. Yet Laumeier's 1999 tax record reports that Nierengarten-Smith accrued no expenses.

A $300 Ellen Tracy dress, purchased by Nierengarten-Smith at Dillard's with the Laumeier credit card, would have gone unreported, too, had business manager Judy Metzger not questioned the director about the purchase. Moreover, in her deposition for the Knicely lawsuit, Metzger told attorneys how Goodman had informed her that the director's expenses were "no concern of mine."

Goodman appears incredulous when he hears Metzger's statement, his former euphoria deflated. "Judy Metzger said that?" he asks. "Well, when I say 'none of her concern,' I guess, being vice chairman and chief financial officer as I was, I felt that that was really my function. I don't think I meant that to be rude or anything to Judy. I just felt that it really was none of her business."

Besides, Goodman had another "real professional" keeping track of Laumeier accounting: Frank Megargel, who also happened to be the personal accountant for the Smiths and James Smith's business accountant. Goodman does not explain why, with a cloud of scandal over the park's dealings, the only accountant for Laumeier was also under hire to the Smiths.

Goodman admits that before Nierengarten-Smith was shunted off to write her notes in exile, she was spending money at a time when none was being raised by Laumeier. People had to be paid, so Goodman approved the liquidation of stock in the Laumeier trust, which is a sure sign of an organization in trouble.

But these problems are all in the past -- and there's no point in discussing them.

The present and future belong to those who survive. Who cannot be fired or exiled. Who have the money and power to remain, be heard and stay immune to responsibility.

Laumeier is a nice place. Great art -- truly great art by Borofsky and Stackhouse and Lieberman -- appears juxtaposed marvelously over open fields and wooded trails. Sculptures by Miss and Pepper and Ferrara reveal themselves magically on those trails and change in mood and tone throughout the seasons. Artful yet familiar, Laumeier possesses the charm of a park with the awe of a museum.

But the philanthropy that has provided these charms has been a mask for greed at Laumeier, ever since the sculpture park's inception. No one knows this better than the embittered director, Beej Nierengarten-Smith, and she says so.

Exile has often been the source of potent literature, be it by Ovid or Dante or Ahkmatova. Nierengarten-Smith's "Confidential Internal Report" doesn't have the ring of the Eclogues or The Divine Comedy or "Requiem," but it's a page-turner.

Nierengarten-Smith lets the shit fly. Her report is a victim document throughout, beginning with the title page, where the banished director complains that she was denied access to Laumeier files "to accurately check the statements made in this report."

"I have not a clue as to why she made that statement," Zakrzewski retorts, noting that the heft of those three-ring binders proves Nierengarten-Smith had plenty of documentation at her disposal.

The former director's history of Laumeier compares to the afflictions of Job. She bemoans the ineptitude of the county maintenance crew, which "treated the sculpture no better than fence posts." She notes the "numerous requests" it took to get a handrail built in the office stairwell and the time she spent in the state's surplus-furniture store in Jefferson City, finding herself in "the unheated state warehouse" like a scavenging waif picking through leftovers. She even comes in conflict with the very ground on which the Laumeier gallery and offices stand. After 21 years, she exclaims, "The hill, however, remained too steep for anyone except a sturdy hiker."

She may not be Ovid or Dante or Ahkmatova, but in response to slights and slanders, Nierengarten-Smith is ready with a well-honed phrase. In describing the political pressures of county budget cuts in 1979, she writes, "There was a mad scramble for territory and resources, and Laumeier was not in the race. In a manner of Shakespearean tragedy, the stage was set and the characters in place."

Not quite iambic pentameter, but she does arrive at a surprising rhyme.

Nierengarten-Smith liberally heaps metaphor on those who've opposed her, such as the hundreds of employees she either dispatched or who leapt Laumeier's walls on their own: "intrigue from former disgruntled staff members was chewing at Laumeier's heels."

The press did some chewing as well, and their sour reflections inspire Nierengarten-Smith's prose. The Post-Dispatch's Robert Duffy "took a position against crafts, ethnic art, folk art, special events," and his critical successor, Jeff Daniel, "willingly continued to perpetuate the Duffy blockade." Kevin Horrigan gets special excoriation. When Horrigan worked for the short-lived Sun, he wrote a negative article about an NEA grant going to Terry Allen, an artist Laumeier had commissioned. Nierengarten-Smith did not forget it. "At this writing," Nierengarten-Smith reflects, "Horrigan is currently writing for the Post and so ignorance has come full circle."

Nierengarten-Smith's notes from exile would be the stuff of tabloid entertainment, or a fascinating psychological blueprint of victimology, but as widely as she lets it fly, some of that shit sticks.

Laumeier functioned as a vehicle for all sorts of wheeling and dealing of an unartistic nature, as documented in Nierengarten-Smith's three-ring binders. At the center of these schemes was founder Adam Aronson.

In 1978 Aronson formed a syndicate with seven partners (Robert Baudendistel, John Dubinsky, Bob McKelvey, David Mesker, Fred Pillsbury, Al Siteman and Lou Sachs) to purchase 20 acres of woodland adjacent to the park, at a cost of $184,000, to protect it from encroaching development. Over the ensuing years, site-specific sculptures by Jackie Ferrara, Robert Murray, Mary Miss and Beverly Pepper were installed on the property, solidifying its value to the county park. After the property served as a tax deduction for the syndicate for eight years, in 1986 the land was sold to the county for $400,000. Some of the members, including Aronson, donated their profits from the sale to the Mark Twain Endowment Fund, set up and controlled by Aronson. Sachs demanded and got his investment back, apparently still miffed about losing to Laumeier "Solstice," the sculpture he purchased for the Chesterfield Mall. Aronson's letter to Westfall, in which he chuckles over the final installation of "Solstice" at Faust Park, reveals more of the curious atmosphere in which Aronson and Laumeier functioned.

In the letter Aronson explains to Westfall that Sachs had agreed to develop a Laumeier annex near the Chesterfield Mall, with Sachs to purchase a sculpture per year for five years, exhibiting the works in Chesterfield before gifting them to Laumeier Park. With this agreement, Aronson says, Sachs instructed him to pursue the purchase of "Solstice," "because he expected I could buy it for less" than the asking price.

"I went to the dealer who then talked about a $100,000 price," Aronson continues. "I reminded her that we had discussed it when it was, I believe, still at the Chicago Art Fair and that she agreed to a $35,000 price if it went to Laumeier where she felt it would be good for the artist to have a piece. I so arranged."

Aronson, with Lau-meier's name and Sachs' money, managed to buy a $100,000 sculpture for $35,000. After this, the tale gets murky. For some unexplained reason, Nierengarten-Smith placed Sachs' son on the Laumeier board and, continues Aronson in his letter to Westfall, "took him to Chicago with her to teach him fundamentals about sculpture at the Chicago Art Fair. I then gave him many hours of time, showing him various pieces of sculpture that were then available for Laumeier at very good prices."

Sachs' son didn't seem to take to all this tutelage, however. The next sentence reads cryptically, "Shortly thereafter, there was a problem and Lou's son left Sachs Properties. They never purchased another piece."

Five years later, when Nierengarten-Smith still held sway over Westfall, she wanted her sculpture back and got it. In 1998, however, her influence with Aronson and Westfall had diminished, and "Solstice" was moved to Faust, precipitating Aronson's chuckle.

This was no way to run a sculpture park.

But Laumeier was a muddled concept from the start. After Aronson hired Nierengarten-Smith as director, he informed her that the board he had assembled was "in name only"; she couldn't expect any fundraising out of them.

In Aronson's mind, the only service the nonprofit was going to pay for was shipping and handling of artwork. Aronson and co-founder Trova were not interested in creating a museum facility -- as Nierengarten-Smith envisioned Laumeier -- but in forming an open-air gallery to exhibit blue-chip art among Trova's sculptures and then selling some of that work to local collectors. "It was less important to the founders and the board that the selection of the art program at Laumeier be based on scholarship," writes Nierengarten-Smith, "than on advertising certain selected artists who would buttress the Trova collection."

Laumeier would be Aronson and Trova's gallery, with the county paying the maintenance and the board paying solely for transportation costs for works on loan. The bizarre nature of such an enterprise can be seen in Laumeier's early years. A Jean Dubuffet sculpture was accepted on loan from a gallery in Belgium in partnership with local art dealer Ron Greenberg. Laumeier paid shipping and repair costs, then Greenberg sold the work to local collector Martin Margulis, absconding with the piece one summer night. Nierengarten-Smith includes in her appendixes a salty letter she had sent to Greenberg demanding her shipping costs back, which were never received.

Without a fundraising board, Laumeier in the early '80s "took out a loan with Mark Twain Banks," which conveniently happened to be Aronson's bank, "to pay the organization's bills," reports Nierengarten-Smith. "The loan was later repaid when outstanding grant money was paid." When it became obvious that the sculpture park's financial situation was unworkable, then-board chair David Mesker and Nierengarten-Smith decided it was prudent to raise $5 million for operating expenses. Aronson, in another letter in Nierengarten-Smith's archives, aborts the plan, saying it was the county's job to raise the money.

The new director found herself the head of a sculpture park nobody wanted to pay for, with a founder who believed the park was for himself and his friends. A plan for a new building at Laumeier was canceled when Aronson and the board rejected the county's choice of architect (Barry Thalden) in favor of one of their own (architect and fellow board member Gene Mackey), even though the structure was to be built with the county's money.

According to Nierengarten-Smith, with a friend like Aronson she didn't need enemies. "Richard Tombough, the director of A&E (Arts and Education Council) in 1979," Nierengarten-Smith remembers, "told the museum director that there would be no funding for Laumeier because of Aronson." She also paraphrases a report from a development consultant hired by Laumeier: "The major representative of the program, Aronson, had many enemies as a result of personality and the banking business. Unfortunately, the consultant continued, the museum director was contaminated by this situation."

Aronson made promises to Nierengarten-Smith he did not keep. Her list includes a $500,000 grant from the A&E that never materialized, as well as a $250,000 operating budget that never existed. She came on with no budget, no staff and debt from a previous exhibition and designs but no funding for Lieberman's monumental "The Way."

Yet somehow Laumeier came to be, and remains, a great artistic treasure. Nierengarten-Smith managed to construct an epic creation over the years. Had she not become so enamored of her sleight-of-hand work, grown so dismissive of the help, turned so arrogant toward those in charge of oversight, she would not have found herself in exile, writing from her spleen. You can practically see Nierengarten-Smith sticking her tongue out at her old mentor and saying, "Yah, yah, yah, I got you back, albeit only in this report. I got you back, begad."

Her most tragic mistake was believing that her proximity to St. Louis' elite would make her one of them and, like them, immune to responsibility. Nierengarten-Smith truly gave her life to the park, but as Laumeier celebrates 25 years, she's not invited to the festivities.

Nierengarten-Smith's notes from exile are not the only documentation of mismanagement, and possible illegalities, at Laumeier. Business manager Bryan Knicely was fired in December 1998 and brought suit against Nierengarten-Smith and the nonprofit board in July 1999. He alleged that Nierengarten-Smith offered him a position as a county civil-service employee. He moved to St. Louis from Columbus, Ohio, with that assurance in 1999.

Knicely soon learned about the issues of dual governance of the park. Although a few Laumeier employees, including Nierengarten-Smith, work for the county, others work for the nonprofit board, receiving fewer benefits and less job security.

Knicely's personal-injury suit also includes allegations that Nierengarten-Smith directed him to falsify time sheets, instructed him to report a fundraising loss as a profit and, most critically, keep quiet about the appraisal and shipping of her personal Brazilian art collection to Santa Fe on Laumeier's dime.

Although the suit is near settlement, neither party will discuss a case still in litigation. However, two file folders of court documents sit in the civil-courts building as public record, shedding more light on the face beneath the artful Laumeier mask.

Knicely's attorneys, Martin and Maria Perron, had a tough time accumulating the information. Over two years of pretrial discovery, the defense team, led by R. Lance Witcher and Robert Tomaso, attempted to restrict access to Laumeier records on grounds of confidentiality, harassment or whatever else was legally applicable. Some records never appeared, including the personnel files of Nierengarten-Smith for the years 1994, 1995 and 1997. Those files have been "purged," in the choice phrasing used during the deposition of Nierengarten-Smith by Maria Perron in February.

The Perrons managed to uncover other documents that supported Knicely's account of life at Laumeier, however. Records revealed that Knicely had tried to keep Nierengarten-Smith in check by developing a formal review-and-development policy for her expenses (per Ernst & Young's recommendation), but she ignored the procedures.

Knicely received a positive performance review from Nierengarten-Smith after his first six months of employment, in May 1998. However, a few months later, the board complained that he was not supplying them with adequate accounting figures. Somehow, somewhere, somebody approved his firing in December 1998. But the Perrons never found those records, whether in minutes to full-board or executive-committee meetings -- if those records exist.

Because Knicely was employed by the board and not the county -- as he had been promised -- he was susceptible to the Laumeier steamroller.

But Knicely is one terminated Laumeier employee who would not go away. Despite the obstacles set up by the defense, the Perrons managed to uncover enough evidence for Judge Margaret Neill to set a trial date. In so doing, Neill refused the defense team's motion for summary judgment, its last attempt to stop Knicely's suit from ever going to trial. In Neill's decision, her most emphatic language concerns Knicely's allegations involving the Brazilian collection. "In his petition," Neill writes, "plaintiff alleges that Ms. Smith used funds belonging to Laumeier Sculpture Park to pay for the appraisal of her personal collection. This allegation, if true, amounts to stealing from the Park, which is against the law" [our italics].

With language such as that, the defense was eager to settle, and the court date was set aside.

A messy public trial has been averted, but the court records remain, revealing more about Laumeier, old and new. In sworn affidavits for the court, former chairs Joann Harmon and Don Wolff and former vice president and current chair Goodman took Nierengarten-Smith's side against Knicely. Knicely was the problem, Nierengarten-Smith the "professional." Yet, when Goodman is asked by the RFT to answer to some of Knicely's specific allegations, his memory lapses.

For example, Knicely alleges that a fundraiser lost money but Nierengarten-Smith told him to report a profit to the board. The event coincided with an exhibition by artist Hiro Yamagata, who paints designs on custom Mercedes-Benz automobiles. The minutes to the Laumeier board meeting (Nov. 10, 1998) show Wolff praising -- with Harmon and Goodman present -- the report of a $1,500 profit made by the Yamagata event.

In their sworn affidavits in the court records, the three share a different story. They say they knew the event lost money, so it appears that Harmon, Wolff and Goodman approved a report they should have known was false.

Laumeier board meetings consisted of nodding heads and sly winks. One such performance occurred in April 1996, after the dissolution of the previous board, chaired by banker Richard Jensen.

Jensen's board had attempted to fire Nierengarten-Smith but failed when they could not gain the support of the county, her actual employer. With pressure exerted by Aronson and his friend Bob Orchard -- who had no official association with Laumeier -- Nierengarten-Smith remained in place, and a new board was formed with Wolff as chairman.

The minutes to the Wolff board's first meeting, found in the discovery phase of the Knicely lawsuit, reveal the surreal nature of life at Laumeier. The Post-Dispatch's Robert Duffy attended as an invited guest and, for his vigilance was treated to a fully staged, standing-room-only Laumeier performance. Twenty-eight members of the Laumeier board and staff were present, an attendance record. The next meeting, held without a media figure watching, managed to attract eight board members.

Brazil was the major topic of discussion at the April meeting. As recorded in the minutes, Nierengarten-Smith claimed she had purchased the artwork in Brazil with her own money, even though the Jensen board had canceled the exhibition. Wolff showed support for the besieged director and said it would be proper for a second exhibition of Nierengarten-Smith's private collection to be held at Laumeier. There was no conflict of interest, he reasoned, because the director had agreed not to sell the work.

But new board member Jim Reid was curious. Why ever did the previous board cancel the exhibition? Because the only members retained from the previous board were allies of Nierengarten-Smith, the explanation given by Jim Thompson was a little one-sided. "Spite" was the reason for the cancellation, said loyalist Thompson, who is back on board at the new Laumeier.

The Jensen board received considerably more criticism from the new, right-minded board. The minutes read, "The prior board did not raise any money. They spent a lot of money trying to prove Nierengarten-Smith was mishandling funds, but all audits proved no problems." Orchard, on hand to celebrate the vanquishing of the infidels, concluded the meeting by commending "the board for their integrity. He appreciates the new board and thinks Laumeier Sculpture Park is finally in capable hands."

Only Barbara Finch managed to disturb the new board's self-congratulatory nature. She was the lone dissenter in approving the Brazil exhibition, noting that despite the director's claims that the collection was bought for the good of the park, Nierengarten-Smith had vastly increased the value of her own collection with the purchase. Finch's dissent proved valid four years later, when Nierengarten-Smith was able to take a tax exemption for the full value of the artwork by donating it to the Museum of International Folk Art. With Laumeier paying the expenses, she gave herself an entrée into the Santa Fe art world as well. Brazil was not a heroic stand in favor of art in St. Louis but a shrewd investment that came back in spades.

The last Nierengarten-Smith expense, Knicely's settlement, will be paid off by Laumeier soon.

The Laumeier board has yet to announce the name of its new director. He has been selected and will be employed by the nonprofit, a situation that chairman Goodman finds, in retrospect, more amenable to board and county alike. "It made no sense from a management standpoint to have the director as a county employee but more or less responsible to the board. It didn't work and it doesn't work. It was made very clear to me from day one that this situation has got to change."

As if a veil has been lifted from their eyes, those returning to the board are to be welcomed for their born-again spirit. Former board chair Harmon is back as a member, expecting easier times without Nierengarten-Smith around, although she approved all her excesses right along with Goodman. Judy Aronson, wife of Adam, remains on the board that saw no wrong.

Larry Mooney is back. When he was Westfall's assistant, he oversaw the dismantling of the board that attempted to depose Nierengarten-Smith in 1995. Mooney went from there to a judgeship. Jim Thompson, always quick with a letter to the press in support of the director, remains loyal to the service of the board.

Goodman beams about Laumeier's new director: "We think he's going to be with us for quite a while," he effuses.

You can be sure Aronson has approved of Nierengarten-Smith's successor. Aronson gets what he pays for.

"He's a young man and he's got a lot of good museum experience," Goodman continues. "He's very well read."

He'd be advised to read up on the sculpture park he's about to oversee. He could use a history lesson about who he works for, about Laumeier and about St. Louis. A story of responsibility -- and on whom it does and doesn't fall.

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