SACRAMENTO, CA- A simmering battle over who controls the majority of the artifacts held by the California State Military Museum is headed to court amid charges of locks cut from doors and allegations the museum's weapons are poorly accounted for.
A lawsuit filed by the California Military Department, which oversees the California National Guard, alleges the Museum is sloppy in its accounting of weapons, including pistols, rifles, machine guns and even anti-tank weapons.
The suit, filed by State Attorney General Kamala Harris, said, "This obviously is a matter of grave public concern, given the possibility of weapons being lost or stolen."
California State Military Museum Director Tony Palumbo said most of the Museum's weapons are antique and that more modern ones are rendered inoperable.
"The Foundation has operated the Museum for 42 years and is compliant with the U.S. Army Center of History Military's regulations on security of those weapons," Palumbo said.
At issue is whether the foundation that runs the Museum for the state has control over the majority of its artifacts.
"People come in to donate their family items, their grandfather's items, and they donate them to the Foundation and the Foundation then can share these items throughout our museum system in California," Palumo said, adding that about 98-percent of the artifacts are not state property.
The state disputes that, arguing that the Museum is taxpayer-funded and set up under the auspices of the California Military Department.
"As the operator, the foundation is responsible for acquiring, storing, and disposing of Museum property. It does not, however, own the property it acquires on the Museum's behalf," the lawsuit maintains.
The dispute boiled over this summer when representatives of the California Military Department cut the locks on the Museum's primary storage facility in South Sacramento and put on new locks.
"Absolutely shocked. It's breaking the law," said Palumbo, who added, "They want unfettered access to all of the files, monetary donations."
California Military Department public affairs spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Keegan said, "In attempting to get access to the museum, all of its holdings and financial records, there was some push-back."
Keegan said the California Military Department has every right to audit the Museum and that concern has grown over how well the Museum accounts for it's property.
"We have property that's held there at the Museum and we want to make sure that property is accounted for appropriately," Keegan said.
The Museum's facilities around the state will operate as usual as the suit makes it way through the courts.