Meyerhoff reportedly set for honorary council post VTC

May 08, 1993|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Seeking to make amends for abruptly announcing that it would replace Harvey M. Meyerhoff as chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, the White House is expected to make the Baltimore developer chairman emeritus of the council when it names his successor, several Democrats close to the decision-making process said yesterday.

Along with Mr. Meyerhoff, the administration is expected within days to name Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, as chairman emeritus, the Democrats said. Mr. Wiesel was the founding chairman of the Holocaust council, having been appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and succeeded by Mr. Meyerhoff in 1987.

The emeritus positions are strictly honorary positions "without any operating responsibility or authority," said one person close to the White House. But the new titles recognize the contributions of the former chairman and the soon-to-be former chairman, both of whom expressed interest in retaining some degree of involvement with the museum's leadership, the Democratic sources said.

Miles Lerman, a Holocaust survivor who has been a member of the memorial council since its inception in 1980, is slated to become the new chairman, and another council member, Ruth Mandel, director of the Center for the American Woman and Politics at Rutgers University, is to be the new vice chairman, they said.

Those involved in the decision-making also said yesterday that the museum director, Jeshajahu Weinberg, who originally said he planned to retire at the end of this year, had agreed to stay on as director for another year.

Mr. Meyerhoff, who would not comment yesterday on the expected appointments, was told early last month that he and the council's vicechairman, William J. Lowenberg, would be replaced soon after the April 26 opening of the Holocaust Memorial Museum here.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland and others chided the White House for the timing of its announcement, coming as it did only weeks before the dedication of the museum, which was 13 years in the making.

Mr. Meyerhoff had contributed $6 million to the museum.

In response to the outcry, Bruce Lindsey, Mr. Clinton's top adviser, met with Mr. Meyerhoff on two occasions to smooth out relations and discuss the imminent changes in the council's leadership. Mr. Meyerhoff, who has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Republican politicians through the years, urged the administration to proceed slowly in replacing him and to appoint an interim chairman from within the council.

Those close to the White House and the museum said the administration felt the need to act quickly last month because of ideological differences between Mr. Meyerhoff and the White House.

Those differences culminated, one Democrat said, in Mr. Meyerhoff's resistance to inviting Israeli President Chaim Herzog to speak at the museum dedication.

Beyond that, the White House wanted to change leadership before the council, which had grown heavy with Republicans during the Ronald Reagan-George Bush years, chose a new director for the museum, a position over which the new Democratic White House wanted control.

In informing Mr. Meyerhoff last month that he would be replaced, the administration also told him to suspend the council's search for a new director.

The museum council had hired an executive search firm in December to look for possible repacements for Mr. Weinberg and had been narrowing the field of candidates.

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