Appleton family files lawsuit against FSU

Published: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 1:13 a.m.

OCALA - The family behind the Appleton Museum of Art has filed a lawsuit against Florida State University's foundation, asking that the agency be legally ordered to operate the museum.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, attorneys representing the Appleton family say the foundation reneged on a 1990 agreement requiring it to operate the museum under certain conditions. The lawsuit also names Central Florida Community College's foundation, the museum's remaining partner, as a defendant.

"It's primarily a breach of contract case," said Peter King, a Chicago-based attorney representing the family. "The foundations were to run the museum in a first-class manner, and that has not happened."

The lawsuit, filed in 5th Circuit Court, lists Arthur Appleton and the Appleton Cultural Center, a nonprofit organization, as the plaintiffs. In 1990, Appleton transferred ownership of the museum to FSU and CFCC. The museum's assets, which included millions of dollars in artwork and endowments, were also given to FSU's foundation.

Blaming cutbacks, FSU last summer pulled nearly $1 million in funding and announced it would cut ties with the museum on June 30. The university later returned $610,000 to help the museum survive the current fiscal year.

The lawsuit alleges that FSU and CFCC failed to fulfill the agreement, which required that the museum and its collections "at all times be maintained and operated with the highest standards of museum operation and maintenance and that all expenses of the Museum, including but not limited to maintenance, repairs, replacements, reserves, landscaping, insurance and the compensation of museum employees necessary to operate and maintain the Museum shall be paid."

Attorneys also have asked that the colleges' foundations provide adequate security and insurance for the museum's collections, concerns noted during a 2002 audit by FSU's inspector general.

Alleging that the money has been used improperly, lawyers have also asked for a complete accounting of how FSU has spent endowment funds related to the museum.

CFCC President Charles Dassance said the college's foundation was a separate institution. He directed questions to foundation President Cash Pealer, who could not be reached for comment Monday.

Attorneys for FSU's foundation declined comment Monday, saying they had yet to review the lawsuit.

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