Former Ferndale Mayor Sues Historical Society

Former Ferndale Mayor Sues Historical Societydinos02sidelogo3

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 10, 2014)

Former Mayor Robert McGee, who served from 1992-1994, is suing the Ferndale Historical Society for $25,000 in damages after being denied access to items in the Historical Museum.  The Historical Society is an independent nonprofit that cares for historical documents and items, and manages the Ferndale Historical Museum.  The society rents the Museum building at 1651 Livernois from the City of Ferndale at a cost of $1 per year.

McGee claims that the FHS breached their contract by not allowing him to scan photos from the Jim Shaffer KELLER ad blackmuseum that he wanted to use as he was working on a book about the History of Ferndale for Arcadia Publishing.  He agreed to work with Historical Society Secretary Jean Spang to co-author the book and split the royalties.

The relationship fell through, McGee’s lifetime membership to the Museum was revoked, and he was banned from the building. As a result, in January 2014 Arcadia terminated McGee’s contract.

Darryl J. Paquette is the attorney representing the Ferndale Historical Society.   “Mr. McGee’s membership was revoked for his ‘vocal disapproval’ of the FHS, which in the opinion of the Board of Directors had ‘proven to be disruptive, demeaning, and intimidating to Board members and Museum staff.’  It waterworkshould be noted that while Mr. McGee had purchased a lifetime membership, he had done so just recently,” Paquette said.

“It should also be noted that, an individual does not have to be a member in order to access the FHS collection, though the FHS does have a long standing policy of charging researchers – members and non-members alike – a fee for obtaining high quality copies of images.  What Mr. McGee wanted was access to 100s of photos without paying a fee. An agreement was attempted to be made between the FHS and Mr. McGee where he would receive the images at no cost in return for donating, to the FHS, all the profits of any book sales. He agreed at first, then changed his mind, then sued when he was told he would have to pay the same fee everyone else does.”

Paquette added “The FHS is a very small, independent, non-profit, volunteer run organization. They own the vast majority of their collection, which has been donated by individuals over time.  This lawsuit will be a major financial burden on the organization.”

The City of Ferndale is not involved in the suit, nor will they face any financial consequences, as the Historical Society is a separate entity.  When asked about the suit, City Manager April Lynch replied “Not having reviewed the allegations in the complaint, it would be inappropriate to comment on the case other than to note, in general, that it is unfortunate that the parties were not able to resolve their differences outside of court.”

McGee has been reached, but says that any comment will come from his attorney.  This story will be updated as more information becomes available.  It has also been updated from a previous version to include the remarks from Paquette. 

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