Schenectady County

Power struggle ends at Schenectady’s Edison center

The power struggle is over for control of the Edison Steinmetz Center, formerly the Edison Explor


The power struggle is over for control of the Edison Steinmetz Center, formerly the Edison Exploratorium.

John Harnden, who incorporated the Edison Exploratorium in 2001, has reasserted control over the nonprofit facility on Broadway, bringing in a new board of directors.

In the process, Thurston Sack has resigned as corporation president and severed all ties with the organization.

Harnden last year sent a letter to friends and supporters seeking Sack’s ouster, saying Sack failed to put the nonprofit organization on a sound fiscal footing. Sack had worked with Harnden in establishing the center, which houses artifacts from General Electric’s scientific and manufacturing past, including vintage ovens, TV sets and refrigerators. He also was the only member of the board, and thereby in control of the corporation and its assets.

As a result of the dispute Harnden, who had donated most of the items in the museum, no longer had access to them. He filed suit in November to gain control of the board. Sack resigned shortly thereafter.

Harnden is the main financial contributor to the center, donating almost $1 million to the corporation since 2001. He stopped his donations last year after Sack refused to reduce his salary in response to a decline in revenues. Sack had been earning approximately $60,000 annually.

Harnden was not available for comment.

Sack said he resigned to allow the center’s mission to continue. “It’s over and I’m moving on. I want only good things to our heritage and our city,” he said.

Claudia McLaughlin is the new president of the board of directors. She is the former executive director of the Scotia-Glenville Children’s Museum and of the Children’s Museum in Saratoga.

“I got involved for two reason. I have been a friend of Ernie’s [Tetrault] for a long time and I have expertise in running not for profits. I decided it was a worthwhile organization and I want to do what I could to help it,” McLaughlin said.

Tetrault is vice president of the board and a close friend of Harnden’s. Other officers are William Kornrumpf, serving as treasurer; James Duggan as secretary.

Edwin Reilly, Frank Wicks and Harnden are board members.

In a note to friends and supporters, Harnden said “this capable group will put us on the road to becoming the organization I envisioned.”

The facility adopted the name of Edison Steinmetz Center last year in response to a copyright lawsuit filed in 2007 by the Exploratorium in San Francisco. The West Coast Exploratorium said the East Coast exploratorium violated its registered trademark.

McLaughlin said the center is currently closed but should reopen in several weeks. “Everyone on board is contributing in a wide variety of ways to get the place ready for people to come in,” she said.

Reilly, who is president of the Schenectady County Historical Society, said he has been a consultant for the organization for eight years and worked with Harnden and other people associated with it.

“Their mission is similar to ours. We want to make better known the famous engineers who built electrical industry in Schenectady,” he said.

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