Ellsworth Brown, executive director, Wisconsin Historical Society
from: Baraboo News Repulic
by Ben Bromley, News Republic
March 16, 2014
Circus World Museum supporters have accused the Wisconsin Historical Society of orchestrating a takeover plot behind their back, but the timing of the state budget process dictated immediate action, the state’s top historian says.
Leaders of the Circus World Museum Foundation, the private group that has run the Baraboo historic site since its inception, were surprised to see included in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal a plan to give Circus World state money, roll it into the Historical Society and terminate the foundation’s operations contract. They lashed out at the Historical Society for failing to inform Circus World boosters of a possible state takeover.
But Ellsworth Brown, executive director of the Historical Society, said he didn’t know until the budget was released that funds were earmarked for Circus World. He felt bound to step in after a December meeting of the Circus World Foundation board in which a financial report revealed the organization would survive this summer season, and perhaps the calendar year, by using cash reserves and short-term fixes. But the outlook for 2014 looked bleak, and the foundation resolved to request state aid.
Given that the governor was at that time crafting his proposal for the two-year state budget, Brown said he felt compelled to inform the Walker administration of Circus World’s plight. If the site was to need state funds in the next two years, the best time to make that request is during the budget-writing process, rather than requesting emergency funds later. “That’s not the environment in which the state likes to consider such questions,” Brown said Thursday during a visit to the News Republic.