While the Peoria Arizona Historical Society is locked in a legal battle over its leadership, the Peoria City Council approved a budget amendment in its Nov. 12 meeting to help fund the storage and safety of the society’s artifacts.
An amount of $19,000 is to be used to cover the retention of a museum expert and materials for identification and climate-controlled storage. It comes from the council’s General Fund contingency account.
The money would be reimbursed by the society when the items are released at an unknown date. The vote passed unanimously.
For years, members of the society disagreed over who would be the rightful board, and thus represent their interests to the city. In January 2018, PAHS members filed suit regarding who is the rightful board. In January, the city notified PAHS the lease for their location would terminate in 180 days and they must move out of the five buildings used for artifacts. This left the artifacts with no home initially.
Since the lease ended in July, there has been little progress, and still no point of contact for the council to work with. Thus, Sharon Roberson, assistant to the city manager, said the best method was storing everything together with proper care.
“The city is best served by waiting until there is some resolution in this legal matter in the dispute between the two parties before any items are dispersed back to the families, the donors, the loaners of these materials. In the meantime we’re taking very good care of the items, and making sure they’re stored in there, tracked and inventoried,” Roberson said.
Another issue, according to statements by members of the public at the council meeting, was the owners of the artifacts feel safer having them in their possession.
Among those concerned was Ruth Osuna, whose family loaned several items for the historical society. She asked the items with identifiable owners be returned to them. While she appreciated the money and effort being put forth by Peoria to preserve the items, the disagreements and uncertainty of the state of her family’s possessions was unsettling, she said.
“I was, I have to say, a little bit shocked when I was told these items were being boxed up and stored,” Osuna said.
Mayor Cathy Carlat said the city does not want to hold items from their owners. She called it an “unfortunate situation” the council had to get involved at all.
Once some resolution comes with PAHS, Carlat said Peoria is willing to give the items back to the society.
“We have no choice. If both of those entities would like to resolve their legal dispute, and one of them came forward and said, ‘I am now the Peoria Arizona Historical Society,’ we’d be more than happy to deal with the organization and release everything to them,” Carlat said.