Kansas City Art Institute Sues $5 Million Donor For Breaking Financial Pledge


The historic Kansas City Art Institute, which had ties to Walt Disney, is suing an Orange County couple for “accepting the publicity” of pledging a $5 million donation, getting an entire building named in their honor and then reneging.

According to the July 28 lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court, Lawrence and Kristina Dodge of Monarch Beach gave the institute $1 million and then “refused” to donate the other $4 million.

Lawyers for the Missouri institute say they have a signed copy of an April 2005 “irrevocable,” “clear” and “unambiguous”  agreement that caused them four years ago to dedicate “The Lawrence and Kristina Dodge Painting Building,” a $7 million project that features copper and glass cubes and a plaza. 

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“[The institute] reasonably relied upon the promises and took
significantly, money-consuming actions based on the defendants'
representations,” according to the lawsuit, which demands a jury trial.

The couple has not yet filed a legal response.

Mr. Dodge founded American Sterling in the 1970s and has been a prolific donor. He, his wife and their corporate interests have contributed to Chapman University's Film School, the Orange County Performing Arts Center, the Ocean Institute in Dana Point and Hearst Castle. Indeed, Dodge's publicity operation continues to tout the couple's donations to the Kansas City Art Institute. 

The case has been assigned to Superior Court Judge Robert Moss.

–R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly 

R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.

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