Head of Getty museum trust in Los Angeles resigns

First-class flights. A Porsche SUV. An annual salary of US$1.2 million. These were the perks Barry Munitz enjoyed during his eight-year tenure as head of the multibillion-dollar J. Paul Getty Trust, and one of the nation's highest paid nonprofit leaders. They ended Thursday when Munitz resigned amid scrutiny for his purported lavish spending, and agreed to resolve "any continuing disputes" by paying the institution US$250,000 and giving up severance pay. Munitz admitted no wrongdoing, and a Getty spokesman declined to provide further comment to The Associated Press.

"I will always be proud of my association with the Getty," Munitz said in his resignation letter. "I'm taking this action, after lengthy consideration, so both the institution and I can move forward."

It is a turbulent time at the US$7 billion trust, which oversees the J. Paul Getty Museum and divisions of art conservation, research and philanthropy. Its former antiquities curator, Marion True, is on trial in Rome , accused of trafficking in looted artifacts.

In June, the nation's leading group of foundations and charitable organizations began an inquiry into the Getty's financial practices following a Los Angeles Times report that Munitz traveled first-class extensively, sometimes with his wife, at Getty expense.

The newspaper, citing Getty documents, said the institution spent US$72,000 on a Porsche Cayenne for Munitz as the trust was laying off staff and cutting other expenditures. Records obtained by the Times also show Munitz sometimes used Getty workers to do personal business for him and his wife.

The Council on Foundations also looked into a 2002 real estate transaction in which the trust sold a US$2 million property to billionaire Eli Broad, a close friend of Munitz, for US$700,000 less than its appraised value. By law, private foundations must get fair market value, but Getty executives maintained the sale was proper and denied Broad received any discount.

By December, the Council placed the trust on a 60-day probation for failing to provide adequate documentation for the review. The state attorney general's office was also looking into whether Munitz's actions compromised the Getty's nonprofit status.

Before joining the Getty, Munitz served as chancellor of the California State University system and the University of Houston , and as academic vice president for the University of Illinois system, reports the AP.


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