Friday, March 09, 2012

Kameny Estate Lawyer Also Reps
Gay Museum that Wants Icon's Papers

Legal minds will eventually have to weigh in on the evidence I am presenting here and decide if ethical lines have been crossed.

This is follow up to my post this morning about the Blade story on attorney Glen Ackerman suing longtime friends and caregivers of gay icon Frank Kameny on behalf of his heir plaintiff Timothy Clark. Let's look at public records found through Googling and other search engines, after a brief reminder why Ackerman, pictured, has filed a lawsuit.

He claims that the defendants wrongfully removed possessions from Kameny's Washington home shortly after passing away in October. Ackerman seeks return of those possessions to the care of his client Clark.

Another client of Ackerman's is the Velvet Foundation, a nonprofit pushing for a National LGBT Museum in DC and he's not only listed on their site as providing community support to the project, he also is the attorney of record for the trademark application for the word mark HERE I AM.

The owner history shows it's the Velvet Foundation, and all correspondence is directed to Ackerman at the physical address for his law firm.

The 2010 IRS 990 tax filing for the foundation reports revenue of $99,313 and net assets listed at the end of year were $77,054. Since Ackerman is not an officer of the nonprofit, his name is absent from the filing. However, the foundation reveals $14,000 and $10,000 in assets for the Kameny Project Collection.

First I'm hearing about this collection and certainly wonder what it contains. Curious to know if Ackerman hopes to recover the possessions for the plaintiff and then sell or donate them to the foundation.

I do know the Kameny Papers Project, started by some of his friend being sued, donated a portion of his archive to the Smithsonian's National Museum and a much larger amount of his records is now with the Library of Congress, and would like to learn if the papers in Kameny house at the time of his death were left to one of those institutions.

Here's one ethical question to consider. Can Ackerman represent plaintiff Clark and the Velvet Foundation simultaneously without any conflict of interest?

Googling turned up a 2009 press release from the nonprofit, stating a number of things I was not aware of regarding the gay pioneer's archive:

Velvet Foundation is pleased to announce its purchase of the Kameny Papers Project’s remaining artifacts. The collection is now part of the Foundation’s permanent collection . . .

"We could not be more happy with the acquisition of the Kameny Papers. While many believe that the entire collection went to the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress, a substantial portion of the collection did not," said Timothy Scofield, Executive Director of the Velvet Foundation. "The items in this collection are key to telling the full breadth of American experience. We are honored to have gained the trust of Frank Kameny [and] the Kameny Papers Project . . ."

FYI, Scofield has since married furniture mogul Mitch Gold and now goes by the name Timothy S. Gold. The New York Times covered their wedding in Iowa with a story and photo in July 2010.

The lawsuit clearly illustrates how that trust the project has deteriorated and the motives of Ackerman, the plaintiff Clark and the National LGBT Museum need to be made more transparent.

Even way out here on the Left Coast, something just doesn't smell right about Ackerman's lawsuit and how he can serve two clients without stumbling over ethical quandaries.  


Mark Meinke said...

Indeed, something is not being told in this story - yet. It is appalling how Dr Kameny is in danger of becoming a commercial dispute. If those competing for his effects had been as diligent in caring for him as for his things he might have ended his years in greater comfort. Why do we let our queer pioneers end their lives in such poverty?

Anonymous said...

Love this statement: "something just doesn't smell right about Ackerman's lawsuit and how he can serve two clients without stumbling over ethical quandaries..."