They were replaced by nine new trustees, including embattled Jackson Memorial CEO Eneida Roldan. None are collectors, Margulies points out.

After the exodus, a new delay was announced. In February, Aaron Podhurst, chairman of the MAM board, said he anticipated the new museum would open in 2013.

MAM is one of many museums that have cut back or postponed expansion plans, says Janet Landay, head of the Association of Museum Directors in Washington, D.C. MAM faces a crisis similar to that of the Cleveland Museum of Modern Art, which has been through four directors since its renovation began in 1999 and is millions of dollars over budget. There are a few key differences, though: that museum has an already established collection and an endowment valued at $600 million.

Finding a new director won't be easy. There are 13 directorships open across the nation; among them are plum locales such as the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez is concerned. He's pondering whether the project should be downsized. "The county has approved nearly $7 million in funds for this year, in addition to the museum's $5 million-per-year budget," he says. "When the performing arts center went over budget, and private donations didn't pan out, the county ended up footing the bill. I'm trying to avoid a repeat."

Board chairman Podhurst is more sanguine. He's been a project leader for nearly a decade. A lanky lawyer still practicing at age 73, Podhurst argues that trustee turnover is fairly common. Finding a director? The museum has already formed a committee. Money problems? It's difficult to fundraise for everybody right now. "We are poised to finish the building," he says. "I believe that when we put our shovels in the ground, we'll raise the cash."

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