The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

June 24, 2014

Suit seeks to reclaim historical donation

Le Sueur County Historical Society seeking about $250,000

LE CENTER — The dueling historical societies of Le Sueur County are back in court, this time in a contest over who can control more than $250,000 from a 30-year-old art donation.

The Le Sueur County Historical Society has sued one of its former members, the Elysian-based Chapter 1. The countywide nonprofit is seeking a court order establishing that it, not the Elysian group, should have control over the so-called “art fund.”

According to Jennifer Urban, the county historical society's attorney, the dispute stems from a misunderstanding over a 2010 merger that aimed to consolidate the historical society’s five city-based chapters into one entity.

The Elysian chapter, called Chapter 1, didn’t go along with the merger and claimed in court that its historical society was the real one. That claim was invalidated by a 2012 court ruling, though Chapter 1 still believed it maintained control to assets — including the art fund accounts — that it had when it operated under the county’s wider umbrella before the 2010 split.

Chapter 1 President Shirley Krenik disputed the facts as laid out in the complaint but didn’t get into the details. Their response filing is due in about two weeks.

“We disagree with the complaint and there will be more information forthcoming when we respond to it in a timely manner,” she said.

According to the lawsuit, the art in question was created by a Le Sueur County native who was one of the foremost early 20th-century experts in a type of printmaking called lithography. The artist’s name is redacted from the lawsuit to protect the identity of the donor, Urban said.

By 1983, proceeds from the sale of the art were put in the art fund, which was managed by a committee of historical society members called the Elysian Arts Council. Other pieces were sold over the years, adding to the fund.

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