A West Texas chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas is accusing DRT President General Patti Atkins and the group's board of entering "an illegally signed contract" to promote the Alamo.
But in a statement to the San Antonio Express-News, the DRT "categorically denies the accusations as groundless."
The flare-up, centering on a one-year, $900,000 contract with William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, signals a rift in the lineage group, which has cared for the Alamo since 1905.
Chapter members worry the agreement may pose a financial risk to the DRT or leave the group beholden to contract underwriters who have not been identified.
In a Nov. 30 letter, members of the Presidents of Texas Chapter in Odessa said they will hold the 26 women on the DRT's Board of Management "personally responsible" if Gov. Rick Perry and the Legislature remove the Daughters as Alamo caretakers next year.
"We have grave concerns about the future of our beloved DRT organization," said the letter, which accuses the board of failing to comply with bylaws.
"We believe this has not been done, and if our charter and/or custodianship of the Alamo is revoked, we Daughters will hold each and every one of you, collectively and individually, personally responsible," the letter stated.
The letter, signed "The Presidents of Texas Chapter," requested a copy of the contract and a reply to all DRT chapters by Friday.
After the DRT in the past year expelled three San Antonio members who voiced public criticism concerning the Alamo, the Odessa chapter's letter and the DRT's media statement reveal more internal strife.
A copy of the letter was given to the Express-News by a DRT member outside the chapter. The DRT is accusing Tammie Smith, a DRT board member and president of the Odessa chapter, of funneling it through an "intentional leak" that would itself constitute a violation of bylaws if it occurred in an effort to "hurt, damage and effect negatively" the DRT.
"We are very saddened to find that a single member of the Board of Management has chosen a very public venue to air her differences," stated the DRT leadership, led by Atkins of Liberty, near Houston.
Smith, who reportedly has voted in opposition to a board majority on key issues concerning the Alamo, only would say the letter reflects her chapter's common concern.
"This letter is the result of the unanimous voice of our chapter. No individual was responsible for this letter," Smith said.
The Odessa chapter, one of more than 100 DRT chapters statewide, alleges the contract was signed in violation of bylaws without board approval, study by a committee or review by a "competent attorney."
According to meeting minutes, two officials of the Texas attorney general's office, which began investigating the DRT in June, made an unannounced visit at a Nov. 5 meeting and watched the board ratify "the action of entering the agreement."
The Daughters have been in negotiation with Perry's office on the DRT's claim to a federal trademark on the phrase "The Alamo," even though the governor's office has stated its opposition to the application.
The governor's office also has put a hold on the DRT's plan to try to fix the Alamo's leaky roof by adding an exterior acrylic coating. Critics say the roof needs extensive repairs or full replacement.
Sources in the DRT said that of the 40-plus members of the Odessa chapter, about 15, all who attended a meeting last month, voted to oppose the contract.
The letter mentions Gail Loving Barnes, a DRT president from 1993-95, as a chapter member who questions the board's actions. A call to Barnes wasn't returned.
Members of the chapter said they learned in an Oct. 29 Express-News article that the DRT had entered a contract with WME, with anonymous underwriters paying the cost of $75,000 per month, before the board ratified it. One of the chapter's concerns is how the DRT would be affected if the underwriters default.
WME is expected to help promote a nationally televised concert at the Alamo on March 5, the eve of the 175th anniversary of the famous battle, that will feature bluegrass singer Ricky Skaggs, the San Antonio Symphony and rock singer Phil Collins, an Alamo devotee.
The contract also covers promotions through television, films, theater, video games and books.
The contract with WME "was agreed upon by a majority of the board" before it was signed and "is a very sound and responsible collaboration that will ensure future revenue streams for the DRT's mission at The Alamo," the DRT said in its statement.
Since the 1900s, when DRT members Clara Driscoll and Adina De Zavala led an effort to save the two remaining structures of the 1836 Alamo compound from neglect and commercial interests, the Daughters have turned the site into the state's top tourist destination. It draws more than 2.5 million visitors annually.
But the nearly 7,000-member group has endured internal criticism in recent years over its care of the state-owned Alamo site and plans for a $39 million project to add a new building there for exhibits and storage. Since the Daughters are a private nonprofit group, the controversy has surfaced in rumors and whispers.
The Odessa chapter also sent a letter to past DRT presidents, asking them to help "move our beloved DRT forward ..... provided that we ..... still have a viable organization in a few months."
"We believe that it is imperative and incumbent on every chapter and every member to join forces and take whatever procedural action necessary to let one and all know that we do not accede, and most certainly are not in agreement with recent actions of the president general and the non-actions of the (board)," the letter to past presidents said.