Meyerhoff to see Clinton aide over his replacement

May 05, 1993|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Harvey M. Meyerhoff, the Baltimore philanthropist who was told last month that he would soon be replaced as chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, is scheduled to meet today with a top White House official to discuss the administration's plans for the council's leadership.

Mr. Meyerhoff declined to discuss the meeting. But several people close to the White House said the Baltimore developer sought an appointment with personnel director Bruce Lindsey, Mr. Clinton's closest adviser, to make one last appeal to slow the process of replacing him.

At a meeting with Mr. Lindsey several weeks ago -- on the heels of the announcement of his ouster -- Mr. Meyerhoff urged the White House to appoint an interim council chairman to allow for a more thoughtful transition. The council oversees the newly opened Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Lorraine Voles, a White House spokeswoman, said yesterday that an announcement about the council's leadership would be made soon.

Several of those familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition that they not be identified, said that Miles Lerman, a Holocaust survivor and original council member who had been expected to succeed Mr. Meyerhoff, is still the front-runner for the chairmanship.

Mr. Meyerhoff and Vice Chairman William J. Lowenberg, both of whom were appointed to the council by President Ronald Reagan, were told by Clinton administration officials in early April that they would be replaced by May 1.

Soon after, the White House was rebuked by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and others for the timing of its action, which came just weeks before the highly publicized April 22 dedication of the museum.

In a phone conversation and subsequent letter to Mr. Lindsey, Ms. Mikulski complained about the "terrible timing" of the notice to Mr. Meyerhoff, who donated $6 million to the museum, and the "heavy-handed way he was treated."

Since then, the White House has moved a little more slowly in reorganizing the Holocaust council's leadership. Mr. Meyerhoff and Mr. Lowenberg are still in their positions and say they have not yet been formally asked to resign.

Several Democrats close to the decision-making process said the White House felt the need to move with some urgency in ousting Mr. Meyerhoff last month because the council, under his leadership, was getting ready to select a new director for the museum.

They also pointed to ideological differences between Mr. Meyerhoff and the White House.

"Mr. Meyerhoff's refusal to invite the president of Israel to speak at the dedication of the museum -- that was the main problem," said one Democrat who asked not to be identified.

A museum spokesman denied that Mr. Meyerhoff refused to invite Israeli President Chaim Herzog to speak but acknowledged that the council believed the museum should be framed as an American, rather than Jewish, museum.

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