Ousted Indiana museum volunteers launch recall effort

A former member confirms who is behind the latest drive to remove museum management
RELATED TOPICS: MIDWEST | POLITICS | PEOPLE
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NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — Frustrated with events this summer at the Indiana Transportation Museum, a group of veteran museum volunteers have launched a recall petition in an attempt to remove current members of the organization’s board of directors.

The museum’s problems surfaced in March when a group of seven dismissed volunteers filed complaints with the Federal Railroad Administration and the Indiana attorney general’s office, alleging various forms of financial and operations mismanagement, including concerns about track safety and certification of operating personnel.

The museum’s landlord, the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which owns the 37 miles of former Nickel Plate branch used by museum trains, responded by suspending operations until the situation could be resolved.

Efforts to reach museum Chairman Jeffrey Kehler about the recall effort were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Jason Hardister, a spokesman for the ousted volunteers, said this was the third time a recall petition has been attempted. The recall petition has teeth, too. Board members can be removed if recall votes by members in good standing reach a threshold as outlined in the organization’s bylaws.

“We’re trying to save the place,” says Hardister. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do all along, and we’ve been open and transparent about it. We don’t want to run the museum into the ground.”

The museum has been unable to operate its weekend tourist trains all summer and, in a particularly sharp blow, was forced to cancel its traditional Fair Trains to the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis. In 2015, the Fair Trains carried more than 14,000 passengers, accounting for a significant percentage of the museum’s operating revenue.

Hardister says he’s especially concerned about what he describes as the museum’s “most important asset,” former Nickel Plate 2-8-2 No. 587, restored in the late 1980s for excursion service. A new restoration of the locomotive has made little progress over the past several years.

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