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Hermann introduced an ordinance instructing the city manager to secure the trademark for the city. The entire Kansas City, Missouri, City Council supported Hermann's idea, except for Barnes, who sided with Union Station.
The trademark dispute revealed another rift: Who owns the collection of Native American artifacts and other historical items in the Kansas City collection? Union Station argued that it owned everything except Corinthian Hall; Kansas City's lawyers disagreed.
In 2007, Kansas City and Union Station reworked the museum-management contract. The new, 20-year deal said Union Station owned or was a trustee of any artifacts received on and after October 5, 1970; Kansas City retained ownership of everything acquired before that date.
Even with that clear delineation, though, few agree on who owns what. According to a 2009 inventory, Union Station believes that it owns 90 percent of the collection; others interpret the results as more like 60 percent.
The new agreement still had the $1.4 million in property taxes for the museum going to Union Station, whose spending of the proceeds had been — and remains — a point of contention.
But the contract left a bizarre governance structure over the Kansas City Museum. It put a private entity (Union Station) in charge of a city-owned asset (Corinthian Hall) that was managed by a Union Station employee (Christopher Leitch), whose boss (George Guastello) determines how public funding (from the mill levy) is spent on the Kansas City Museum (which doesn't necessarily mean Corinthian Hall), which is overseen by a city-appointed board (KCMAB) that doesn't have any authority. It's little wonder that the arrangement hasn't worked.
George Guastello grew up in Columbus Park, not far from Corinthian Hall. The tall executive carries himself with the blunt, no-nonsense manner favored by civic leaders. Some KCMAB members find him condescending.
Guastello started his career in banking before moving on to marketing positions with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and Starlight Theatre. He later led the American Royal for five years before being hired to run Union Station in late 2008.
At the time, Union Station was hemorrhaging cash and depleting its endowment. Guastello has received much credit for quickly shoring up Union Station — and doing it his way.
"When you put George in a contentious position, he'll fight back," said City Council member Jan Marcason at a June 12 KCMAB meeting, according to the minutes. That meeting was held when discussions about separating the Kansas City Museum from Union Station were reaching a critical point.
Guastello wasn't at that June 12 meeting, but he was present October 14, the last time the KCMAB met. After that meeting, a Pitch reporter approached Guastello to discuss several issues related to Union Station and the Kansas City Museum. Fourth District City Councilman Jim Glover joined the conversation.
Days earlier, Glover had spoken with The Pitch for 90 minutes about Union Station, the Kansas City Museum and Corinthian Hall. One of the topics discussed was a significant mold outbreak, in 2011, in a storage facility that Union Station was using to house some of the Kansas City Museum's artifacts. Mold had covered exposed surfaces of artifacts placed in the Northland underground storage facility.
A mold-remediation report from 2011 indicates that cleaning mold off the collection cost $130,000. It also says Union Station leadership rejected recommendations to install equipment that may have prevented the mold problem. A separate report documents other instances when water pipes leaked in rooms where artifacts were stored.