The chairman of a presidential commission coordinating the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas resigned this week after a congressional subcommittee, several news media organizations and a key corporate donor asked questions about the commission's management.
John N. Goudie, chairman of the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission, resigned his unpaid chairmanship Monday, a White House spokesman said yesterday, and no replacement has been named.
Jana Joustra, the commission's deputy director, said Goudie, a Miami developer and Republican fund-raiser appointed by President Ronald Reagan, resigned "basically because he's just fed up."
She said the "last straw" occurred when officials of Chrysler Corp. began to express concern about a donation to the commission after an article appeared in Special Events Report, a Chicago newsletter that has tracked the commission's troubles in recent months.
A Chrysler spokesman said yesterday that plans to contribute were proceeding steadily and that officials had merely asked Goudie to "spell out details" of their contract with the commission.
Goudie, who could not be reached yesterday, took over the commission five years ago when it was established by Congress to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492.
A subcommittee of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee this fall asked the General Accounting Office to audit the commission. Subcommittee Chairman Thomas C. Sawyer (D-Ohio) said he and ranking Republican Thomas J. Ridge (Pa.) began planning hearings on Goudie's management of the group after complaints from state commissions and other groups working on the Columbus celebration.
A key plan for the celebration is to be a tour by three ships built by the Spanish government as replicas of Columbus's famous trio -- the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. However, the commission is $600,000 in arrears on its agreement with Spain after the main corporate sponsor of the tour, Texaco Inc., withheld its $500,000 payment in September, the commission said.
Joustra said Texaco withheld its payment to put pressure on the Spanish government to release detailed information about the three ships expected to retrace Columbus's route through the Americas.
"Texaco felt that, by holding back payments to us, we would get some of the results on some of the things we wanted from the Spanish government," Joustra said. "It's kind of like a kid who does something that you don't like him to do, so you hold back on his allowance until he makes it right."
But a Texaco spokesman said the company's problems were with the commission here.
"I don't want to get into a rock fight with them," K. Peter Maneri, director of public relations for Texaco, said of the commission. "But Texaco's contract is with the U.S. Quincentenary Commission. The crux of our discussions with them have to do with the management of the tour and the contractual obligations that the commission has to us."
Maneri said yesterday that Texaco's contract to give the commission $5 million for the tour "is still in full force and effect."
Sawyer said that, with Goudie's resignation, the concern now is about getting the celebration plans up to speed in time for 1992.
"It's important now for the president to act with prudent speed to name a replacement . . . to regain the confidence or sustain the confidence of potential sponsors, other nations and the communities that are a part of this celebration," Sawyer said.