National Slavery Museum faces new bankruptcy deadline

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The National Slavery Museum, headed by former Governor and Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder, faces a new deadline for getting out of millions in debt.

The judge is giving Wilder's side until February 29th to account for millions in spending and come up with a good enough plan for paying back creditors.

Facing millions in debt and unhappy investors, the National Slavery Museum is now running out of options. A federal bankruptcy judge wants a reorganization plan on his desk by next month, complete with balanced books and tax returns.

Once upon a time, the plan was to open the museum in Fredericksburg in 2007. But it never happened. Fundraising proved difficult, as the museum's guiding force, Doug Wilder, explained in a 2009 interview.

"Money is in short supply everywhere, around the world, so it shouldn't be a surprise," he said at the time.

Wilder has since made few public comments on the museum, and he wasn't present Wednesday, citing a previously scheduled speaking engagement. His attorney tried to delay the hearing, but the judge refused.

Attorneys for Fredericksburg also want to figure out a $1.6 million dollar discrepancy in the museum's tax filings. The museum's attorney declined to make comment -or even eye contact- on her way out of court, but earlier assured the court that a new CPA, instead of a court-appointed examiner, would account for the spending in question.

Reorganizing now, said Judge Douglas O. Tice, Jr., is "an ambitious sounding plan". But an attorney for Fredericksburg had "skepticism about how this reorganization can come to fruition."

Meanwhile, people like Therbia Parker, who donated artifacts to the museum, await an uncertain future, as he explained in 2011.

"People that donated their money, their artifacts. They should see what happened here," Parker said at the time.

All sides in the case are due back in bankruptcy court on Leap Day, February 29th. The museum's attorney told the court that they'll try to resume fundraising after that hearing, assuming the judge signs off on the plan.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12.  all rights reserved.