WASHINGTON – The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is unable to find or account for tens of thousands of valuable mementos of Reagan’s White House years because a “near universal” security breakdown left the artifacts vulnerable to pilfering by insiders, an audit by the National Archives inspector general has concluded.
Inspector General Paul Brachfeld said his office was investigating allegations that a former employee stole Reagan memorabilia, but that the probe had been hampered by the facility’s sloppy record-keeping.
“We have been told by sources that a person who had access capability removed holdings,” Brachfeld said. “But we can’t lock in as to what those may be.”
The hilltop complex near Simi Valley, Calif., that houses Reagan’s papers is the most visited of the nation’s 12 presidential libraries. Many of the facilities are understaffed. And many are struggling to keep track of hundreds of thousands of presidential gifts.
But, investigators said, they encountered the most serious problems at the Reagan library, a finding that may mortify fans of the late president who often inveighed against government inefficiency.
Of particular interest is whether the artifacts that are unaccounted for include pieces from a large collection of ornamented Western belt buckles given to Reagan over the years by admirers who knew of his attachment to his ranch.
A National Archives spokeswoman said the agency had accepted the audit’s criticisms and is working to fix the problems.
The audit found that the Reagan library was unable to properly account for more than 80,000 artifacts out of its collection of some 100,000 such items.