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Slavery museum failed to file state registration
Slavery Museum's registration to solicit donations lapsed in May 2008

Visit the Photo Place

Date published: 2/28/2009

BY EMILY BATTLE

Last June, former Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder told Fredericksburg's City Council that even though his U.S. National Slavery Museum had a tough fundraising goal ahead of it, he was confident he could meet the challenge.

"We'll still be knocking on the doors of the corporate people," Wilder said.

But it turns out that at the time, the museum had allowed its state registration to raise charitable contributions to expire.

The registration expired in May 2008, according to information available on the state Office of Consumer Affairs Web site.

The office granted an extension until August of last year, but to this day the museum's registration to raise funds remains lapsed, even though the museum continues to solicit funds via its Web site.

Officials with the Office of Consumer Affairs were not available yesterday to comment.

State law requires that any organization that plans to solicit charitable contributions make a yearly filing, including basic information about the group as well as its tax return and audited balance sheets.

The lapsed filing is just one more sign that the museum appears to have stopped operations.

Museum Executive Director Vonita Foster has not been seen in the museum's offices in Central Park since November. She has not responded to correspondence or phone calls from this and other media outlets--or from the Office of Consumer Affairs regarding the group's registration to solicit donations.

Wilder also has not responded to media inquiries, and Fredericksburg officials who have tried to contact him have not been successful.

Anyone who tries to call the museum is greeted by a message that says the number has been arranged for outgoing calls only.

Meanwhile, the museum owes more than $24,000 in overdue taxes and penalties on the 38 acres it owns in Celebrate Virginia.

That land--which is in a commercial area city officials consider crucial to Fredericksburg's future financial health--was donated to the museum in 2001 by the Silver Cos. Silver officials also have said they have had no contact with Wilder or others associated with the museum.

Emily Battle: 540/374-5413
Email: ebattle@freelancestar.com