February 28, 2007
By Elisabeth Grant
This weekend the Washington Post reported on a recent audit of Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small and its surprising results. The Post reports:
Lawrence M. Small, the top official at the Smithsonian Institution, accumulated nearly $90,000 in unauthorized expenses from 2000 to 2005, including charges for chartered jet travel, his wife’s trip to Cambodia, hotel rooms, luxury car service, catered staff meals and expensive gifts, according to confidential findings by the Smithsonian inspector general.
The article went on to note that Small’s compensation last year, $915,698, is higher than Harvard’s outgoing President, and Harvard “has an endowment about 30 times the size of the Smithsonian’s.” Small has also received $1.15 million over the past seven years in return for offering his house up for official functions.
While the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents has reviewed the audit and declared Small’s spending “reasonable,” others are more concerned. The Post article described Senator Charles E. Grassley, who requested the review, as outraged. He described the situation as ”what appears to be an ‘anything goes’ culture by the Smithsonian secretary and his staff, which views that his champagne lifestyle should be subsidized by the taxpayer.”
The Smithsonian, and Secretary Small, have been in the news lately due to historians’ concerns over the Smithsonian/Showtime deal.