Lawrence Small has resigned. He has had an interesting tenure as Secretary of the Smithsonian. His collection of South American artifacts wound up putting him in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty, and he tried to be allowed to use his community service time lobbying to revise that and related laws. He also proposed closing important scientific research facilities at the Smithsonian, focussing on corporate sponsorships of public events, including a screening of a Discovery Institute funded creationist movie. At the same time, the physical plant at Smithsonian museums has degraded, with roof leaks damaging artifacts and museums being closed indefinitely for repairs.
Recently, an audit revealed that his compensation has been “lavish,” and that the Smithsonian has been paying back a mortgage on his home – a mortgage which doesn’t exist. He’s also used private jets to travel the world on the Smithsonian’s dime. He reportedly also tried to intimidate the auditor into leaving his accounts alone.
And so he’s out, only 7 years too late:
The governing board of the Smithsonian Institution announced today that it had accepted the resignation of its top official, Lawrence M. Small, following an internal audit showing that the museum complex had paid for his routine use of such lavish perks as chauffeured cars, private jets, top-rated hotels and catered meals. …
Cristián Samper, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, was named acting secretary, replacing Mr. Small.
Samper is a trained biologist, formerly the acting director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and currently head of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. He was born and trained in Colombia, where he helped establish a network of parks, and helped establish a national ministry of the environment.
“Cristián Samper is one of the most innovative and personable leaders in the field of
biology today,” says Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. “His
accomplishments in the conservation of biodiversity in Colombia and globally have been
He holds dual citizenships in the US and Colombia, and is a leading candidate to permanently replace Small. His leadership would emphasize the important scientific work the Smithsonian does, and its critical work on a global level.