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Historical Society fires exec

The Cass County Historical Society has fired its executive director, prompting one board member to resign because she said she wasn't involved in the decision.

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The Cass County Historical Society has fired its executive director, prompting one board member to resign because she said she wasn't involved in the decision.

Secretary-treasurer Mary Nelson said she received a phone call from board vice president Kim Baird around 6:20 p.m. Thursday, informing her that the nine-member board had fired Steve Stark, executive director since December 2000.

"I asked her, 'Doesn't that have to have board approval?' " Nelson said. "And she said, 'We have the votes.' "

Baird did not return a phone message seeking comment Friday.

Stark said he wasn't given a reason for his termination.

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"They said they didn't have to give me a reason and that they simply wanted to change directions," he said.

Board president Howard Barlow offered little explanation Friday, other than to say, "We're looking at some changes in staffing.

"We're in the middle of a building project, and so there's just a number of things that need to be looked at, changes that need to be made," Barlow said.

Nelson said she was so upset about not being included, she mailed a resignation letter to Barlow Thursday.

Stark said board members told him they had conducted his employee evaluation in September without him present. He said he never saw the results of that evaluation -- his first in four years.

Stark said he was paid an annual salary of $44,000.

Nelson, who joined the board in 2000, said there were "definitely personality conflicts" between Stark and some board members.

"I think he did a good job in promoting," she said. "I think one of the complaints was that he probably wasn't as organized as he should have been with office details. I think certain board members thought he should spend more time at Bonanzaville, but I felt comfortable with him being out in the community. He hires a staff to run Bonanzaville."

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Stark said he's sad about the board's action.

"But I'm most happy to have served Bonanzaville as executive director for the last four years," he said.

During that time, he said he expanded educational programs, brought more repairs and special events to Bonanzaville and raised a quarter-million dollars in grants and gifts.

The historical society is currently planning a new museum in a 12,200-square-foot addition to the Arthur Town Hall building at Bonanzaville. Stark said about $1.6 million has been raised for the $2.4 million project.

Barlow said Stark's firing shouldn't affect the project.

"We plan to move ahead," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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