The History Museum of Hood River County has been closed for the time being while independent auditors hired by the county investigate possible bookkeeping issues.
“Recently, Hood River County has become aware of some administrative and operational anomalies at The History Museum,” Hood River County Administrator David Meriwether said. “In the interest of clarity, the museum is temporarily closed while a complete analysis is performed. We anticipate the closure will be brief and that normal operating hours and programs will resume as soon as possible.”
Meriwether said the museum, which is currently wholly a county entity, is in the process of changing over to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit federal tax designation, which will make it easier for the museum to accept charitable donations. The current museum advisory board would be dissolved and replaced by a new board, the Hood River Heritage Council.
Meriwether explained Tuesday morning that approximately one week ago, the county became aware museum funds may have been moved too soon from one account to another “in anticipation of that (nonprofit) formation, which is not yet in place or recognized by the IRS.”
Meriwether said the county made the decision to shut the museum’s doors to the public on Friday while accountants with Pauly Rogers and Co — a Tigard accounting firm that the county has used in the past — audit the museum’s finances.
“We thought it best to clear the deck and close the museum while we examine the records,” Meriwether explained and added that the county “wanted to put the brakes” on any possible inappropriate fund transfers at the museum and “make sure everything is in order from a tax liability standpoint.”
When asked how the county would remedy the situation, Meriwether responded, “That would depend on what we find.”
The closure of the museum, which is typically open seven days a week, forced the cancellation of a showing of a documentary on dugout canoes that was scheduled to play at the museum on Sunday morning. Meriwether said Tuesday morning that he expected the closure to only last another “couple days” while the audit is completed. As for the museum’s Luhr Jensen and Sons Gallery opening slated for Saturday, Aug. 17, Meriwether said county employees “anticipate that will still continue.”