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  • Writer's picturePulse Families and Survivors for Justice

The Case Against Pamela Schwartz

Updated: Apr 10

Pamela Schwartz, the Executive Director of the Orange County Regional History Center, has recently been endorsed publicly as someone the County could bring in as an expert and resource moving forward on the creation of a memorial or museum for our family members killed and injured in the shooting that occurred at the Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016. This was suggested by one of the Orange County Commissioners during the Board of Commissioners Meeting that took place on November 28, 2023.

However, there are several reasons why this would be unacceptable to us. First, Ms. Schwartz's museum collection methods made us feel revictimized. She lifted items from public memorials without our permission or consultation in the immediate aftermath of the shooting while many of us were still in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds and in the process of burying our murdered loved ones. Second, she has personally profited from our mass shooting, getting paid by both Orange County and the onePULSE Foundation at the same time (see amounts and details below). Third, there are serious allegations from her own employees at the History Center outlining concerns of "conflicts of interest, favoritism, unprofessional behavior, and ethics violations" as outlined in a 23-page report completed on December 3, 2021, which is available in Orange County Public Records.

Who is Pamela Schwartz?

Pamela Schwartz was a curator for the local History Center when she began removing items from local public memorials to "preserve" them for museum exhibitions. While many of us were hospitalized, discovering the scope of the atrocity, grieving, and in total shock, Schwartz devised a plan to turn our mass shooting into a museum centerpiece and later helped to try to turn it into a $100M tourist attraction that will never be built.

Below, you can view the outlined sketch of Schwartz's indecent plan to take memorial items from public memorials without our approval or even given the courtesy of a consultation.

Pulse Initial Notes
Download PDF • 1.46MB

We consider this method of "artifact" collection unethical and highly problematic. This method has become Schwartz's claim to fame and the centerpiece of her career as a "museum professional," which she leverages to advise other museums to also take memorial items in cities where mass shootings occurred.

Soon after taking and cataloging items from public mass shooting memorials around Orlando, Ms. Schwartz was promoted. According to employment information provided by Orange County Public Records, Pamela Schwartz was awarded the following promotions and raises:

  • Program Manager 2/1/2016 ($26.42)-10/6/2018 ($28.30)

  • Sr. Program Manager 10/7/2018 ($29.29)- 3/6/2021($32.75)

  • Manager, Regional History Center 3/7/2021 ($45.68)- 10/2/2021 ($45.68)

  • Manager I 10/3/2021 ($45.68)- 9/30/2021 ($52.67)

  • Manager II 10/1/2023 ($55.30)- Present ($57.51)

Pamela Schwartz's payday increased from $48,135.36 in 2016—the year of the Pulse Nightclub shooting—to $104,052.00 in 2022 and to over $104,806.40 in 2023. $104,807.40 is the total Ms. Schwartz received as of December 5, 2023.

This pay does not include the $91,110.00 she was paid through the OnePULSE Foundation from the Orange County Tourism Development Tax (TDT) grant.

Disturbingly, public records show that an investigation by Orange County called Ms. Schwartz's professionalism into question. In the 23-page report completed on December 3, 2021, Schwartz was accused by her employees of "conflicts of interest, favoritism, unprofessional behavior, and ethics violations."

Final Report 2021-MI-4119
Download PDF • 2.22MB

The allegations made about Ms. Schwartz by History Center employees raise many red flags. The allegations range from inappropriate romantic relationships, conflicts of interest with the failed and dissolving OnePULSE Foundation, and even ordering an employee to secretly remove a bullet from the Pulse Nightclub crime scene in 2016.

Conflicts of Interest: onePULSE Foundation and the History Center

The Orange County investigative report into Ms. Schwartz detailed several allegations regarding Pamela Schwartz's employment with both the Orange County Regional History Center and the OnePULSE Foundation.

One employee of the History Center "was concerned [about] Ms. Schwartz's contract and volunteer work as a consultant for the onePULSE Foundation (OPF) was a conflict of interest with her roles at the [Regional History Center]."

She "suspected Ms. Schwartz was paid through her personal graphics design business for the work she completed for the OPF [and that ] Ms. Schwartz did not collect several Pulse Nightclub artifacts for the County; rather, she instead passed them on to the OPF."

According to the report, the employee also "recalled [when] Ms. Schwartz worked afterhours on a onePULSE project and asked if any employee wanted to volunteer with her. Ms. Drake proffered it was inappropriate for a supervisor to request employees to volunteer for an organization she had financial ties with."

Another employee also voiced concerns over Pamela Schwartz's conflict of interest between the Orange County Regional History Center and the onePULSE Foundation. She said she was told by Ms. Schwartz that she was employed by the onePULSE Foundation. She told Orange County investigators, "Ms. Schwartz helped [the onePULSE Foundation] create the onePulse Museum, as well as catalog items stored with the [Regional History Center]. Ms. Schwartz asked employees if they were willing to donate their time after hours [sic] to help catalog artifacts for [the onePULSE Foundation]. Ms. Schwartz also used [Regional History Center] materials for [onePULSE Foundation] artifacts and claimed materials would be replaced by the [onePULSE Foundation]."

Payments Made to Pamela Schwartz

Since the abject failure of the onePULSE Foundation and the announcement of its dissolution, it has become clear that the nonprofit (and those affiliated with it) violated several contractual agreements and, quite possibly, local, state, and federal laws.

Through individual records requests, Orange County has released several documents that were never before released to the public, including invoices that show exactly how much money Pamela Schwartz received from the onePULSE Foundation through Orange County's $10M Tourism Development Tax (TDT) Grant.

According to these records, Pamela Schwartz received $91,110.00 from Orange County, paid through several, separate payments ranging from $4,800.00 - $6,000.00 made by the onePULSE Foundation for "museum planning." These payments, funded by Orange County, were in addition to the salary she received through the Orange County Regional History Center for archiving Pulse "artifacts" and creating Pulse exhibits.

The Funding Requests (below) were signed by Barbara Poma, Founder and CEO of the OnePULSE Foundation and personal friend of Ms. Schwartz.

At the height of her career with the Orange County Regional History Center, Ms. Schwartz has been getting paid $57.51 per hour as the Executive Director (Manager II).

However, according to the invoices that were submitted to Orange County by the OnePULSE Foundation to access the TDT funds, Ms. Schwartz was being paid through the OnePULSE Foundation an hourly rate of $125.00 per hour.

This is nearly three times what Pamela Schwartz was making as Manager of the History Center in 2021 and she was getting paid to attend meetings, do "administrative work," and various other planning activities for a museum that never even broke ground.

You can view some of Ms. Schwartz's invoices below, which outline the "work" she completed on behalf of the OnePULSE Foundation. It's worth noting, that some of this work may have been completed while Ms. Schwartz was on the clock with the Orange County Regional History Center (if we are to believe the allegations put forth by History Center's own employees in the investigation above).

These invoices also show that Ms. Schwartz was being paid for activities that included "donation calls," a "team retreat," and blog posts. These activities appear to be outside of the scope of the TDT grant, which was designated by Orange County to strictly fund only the design and development of the museum.

At the conclusion of the investigative report, Orange County stated:

"OPS recommends CFS conduct a review of the different roles Ms. Schwartz serves to determine whether there are potential conflicts, as well as, potential concerns such as the possible misinterpretation of her role within the various organizations. Furthermore, it is recommended for CFS to review the dual role Ms. Schwartz holds with the RHC and the HSC because as a County employee, her actions may also lead to the County to be involved in employment decisions for non-County employees."

To our knowledge, this review was never completed.

We hope that state, local, and federal law enforcement look into how public dollars were used by the OnePULSE Foundation and that those responsible for waste and the misuse of funds are held accountable.

The money that individuals made off the murder of our mass shooting victims and the injury and trauma of hundreds of us directly impacted by the Pulse Nightclub massacre is in the millions. No one should be allowed to profit from mass murder. Mass shootings should never be exploited as pay-to-view museum exhibitions.

However, conflicts of interest and how public funds were (mis)used by the onePULSE Foundation is only one issue brought up in the investigative report written by Orange County.

The Secret Removal of a Bullet from the Crime Scene

An equally concerning issue involved the collection of evidence (a bullet) from the Pulse Nightclub property in the aftermath of the shooting by Pamela Schwartz and the Regional History Center.

The report states that employees "expressed concerns... about the collection of artifacts from the Pulse Nightclub shortly after the tragedy in 2016." One of these employees claimed, "Ms. Schwartz directed her to collect a bullet from the Pulse Nightclub without annotation into the collection record and to place the bullet in her pocket... she did not know what to do with the bullet afterward [sic] and it remained in her possession at the [Regional History Center]."

Another employee provided more details about how Pamela Schwartz directed her to secretly take a bullet from the Pulse Nightclub in 2016 when they were there to collect "artifacts" inside the club. The report states:

"While Ms. Schwartz and Ms. Broadaway prepared a door for removal and transport, she (Broadaway) discovered what appeared to be a bullet. Ms. Schwartz. directed Ms. Broadaway to place the bullet in her pocket and not tell anyone about the discovery. Additionally, Ms. Broadway was directed not to annotate the collection of a makeup brush Ms. Schwartz had found. After Ms. Drake was promoted to Curator of Collections, Ms. Broadaway explained the issue with the items collected; Ms. Drake told Ms. Broadaway to type a description of how the collection took place for placement with the items."

Similarly, yet another employee reported the bullet secretively taken from the Pulse Nightclub property. The report states:

"Ms. Duffy indicated Ms. Broadaway told her a piece of metal which appeared to be part of a bullet was discovered at the Pulse Night club when artifacts were recovered shortly after the tragedy. Ms. Schwartz told Ms. Broadaway to place the item in her pocket and not tell anyone. However, this information was told to Ms. Duffy, only after she (Duffy) was promoted to Chief Curator. Ms. Duffy explained she would have to find a way to fix the situation because the collection of the item was unethical. No other witnesses were aware of ethical concerns with the collection of artifacts from the Pulse Nightclub."

We are extremely concerned over the secret and "unethical" removal of a bullet by the Orange County Regional History Center, under Pamela Schwartz's leadership, from the Pulse Nightclub crime scene. According to the investigative report, Schwartz denied the allegation made about the bullet. Regardless, ballistics were instrumental in forensic analyses and shaped legal conclusions and we believe any newly-discovered evidence should have been turned over to law enforcement, not removed by museum curators and kept for the History Center's collections.

Before we became aware of this bullet and the removal of items from the Pulse Nightclub, we expressed our concerns over the History Center's collection of Pulse shooting "artifacts" from public memorials, which we considered unethical and highly problematic.

The removal of a bullet from the crime scene is shocking. This only exacerbates our feeling of being revictimized by Pamela Schwartz and her mass shooting museum-making exploits.

Inappropriate Romantic Relationships

An Orange County Regional History Center employee also alleged that Ms. Schwartz had an inappropriate romantic relationship with a local artist whom she featured in the History Center and paid. The report states that the History Center employee, "had concerns with Mr. Thomas Thorspecken's (Citizen, local artist) work with the RHC because Ms. Schwartz and Mr. Thorspecken were in a romantic relationship. Mr. Thorspecken's artwork was displayed in multiple exhibitions and projects."

This employee, "was concerned Ms. Schwartz's relationship with Mr. Thorspecken could have influenced her decision on which artist to present in exhibitions and projects."

She was not sure how often he was featured, "but it appeared he was featured more than other artists. Even if unpaid, Mr.Thorspecken received more publicity when his art was displayed at the RHC, which could increase his notoriety."

The investigation concluded that this allegation was sustained and in violation of Orange County Policy Manual & Operational Regulations (Effective 04/11/2004) Chapter 400, Code of Conduct, Sub-Section 401 - Productive Work Environment and Standards of Behavior Policy.

Pamela Schwartz Should Play No Role

For the reasons outlined above, we believe that Pamela Schwartz should end all involvement in the commemoration of the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub. This includes any future involvement in the public memorial and any future involvement in curating museum exhibits. Ms. Schwartz should play no role in anything involving the Pulse Nightclub shooting, victims, or survivors.

We also believe Ms. Schwartz should be held accountable for all of her actions, which include the sustained allegations against her in her leadership role as Executive Director of the Orange County Regional History Center.

We understand Ms. Schwartz denied some of the allegations made by her employees and that Orange County found some sustained and others were not sustained in terms of violating Orange County policy. However, the fact that 10 employees from the Orange County Regional History Center have resigned since she became Executive Director appears to demonstrate the existence of significant leadership issues.

You can read the entire case file below and other documents to form your own opinion.

2021-MI-4119 Notes
Download PDF • 12.84MB

OPS Notes -Tel Call with Noelia redacted
Download PDF • 1.37MB

****UPDATE**** December 17, 2023

Since publishing this article, we were informed of additional evidence collected after the investigative report on Pamela Schwartz's violations of Orange County policy was completed by County investigators.

This includes additional documented accounts from multiple employees of the bullet taken secretly from the Pulse Nightclub, under Pamela Schwartz's direction, which she denied to investigators (as noted in their report). In these emails, an additional employee verifies that Pamela Schwartz did indeed tell the Orange County History Center team to take the bullet and not to tell anyone. The employees also included a list of the items taken from the nightclub, written in Ms. Schwartz's handwriting, that did not include the bullet.

What is also concerning about all of this is that items taken from the nightclub for a future museum exhibition, which morbidly included bloodied and bullet-ridden items, are also allegedly items that contributed to code violations inside of the building that hindered escape and rescue. Items like the beaded curtains that hung over doorways, blocking views of an exit, disorienting club-goers, and—as shown in surveillance footage—obstructing police from seeing clearly inside of the building when entering the nightclub through the reception area.

The newly released documents can be accessed below:

Email from Whitney Broadaway (Rebuttal for case 2021-MI-4119)
Download PDF • 327KB

Adam Ware
Download PDF • 110KB

Emilie Arnold
Download PDF • 111KB

This is an absolute disgrace. This is why we believe Pamela Schwartz should not be involved in any Pulse exhibition work or have any future involvement in museum collections or the Orange County Regional History Center. We hope that Orange County leaders will re-evaluate her leadership role and we hope that museums across the country are aware of Pamela Schwartz and these ethical issues so that they are not replicated elsewhere.

In the aftermath of mass tragedy, we do not need "leaders" like Pamela Schwartz making these kinds of decisions and shaping how communities respond to atrocity. These decisions are re-victimizing and cause additional harm and trauma, to victims' families, survivors, and museum workers.

When you remove items from the site of a mass shooting because of their future value as a spectacle, and you instruct your staff to remove a bullet in secret, this shows your mindset and your intention.

This is not expertise. This is exploitation.

****UPDATE**** January 7, 2024

Yesterday, we received all of Pamela Schwartz's invoices to the onePULSE Foundation, which were paid by Orange County through the Tourism Development Tax Grant.

According to County records, the total paid by Orange County with TDT money, which is in addition to the salary she takes through the Orange County Regional History Center, was $91,100.00.

pam Swartz Invocies
Download PDF • 1.03MB

According to the invoices above, Schwartz was paid for activities that appear to be outside of the scope of the TDT grant and the contract that was signed by the onePULSE Foundation. These include administrative work, donation contact and correspondence, "calls with Barbara," contract review, "pro-forma research," blog post editing, a team retreat, workshops, etc. This was all money that was supposed to be used to design and build a museum, which never broke ground.

Schwartz was also paid by the Foundation to do cataloging, preservation, and oral history work, which appear to also be Regional History Center projects. Meanwhile, her employees alleged that she was using her time as Executive Director at the History Center to do work for the now dissolved onePULSE Foundation. It is unclear at this point how much her contract work with the onePULSE Foundation overlapped with her paid position through the Orange County Regional History Center.

Was Pamela Schwartz double-dipping into Orange County's tax-payer dollars?

Regardless, these invoices also represent another serious conflict of interest that is extremely problematic for a museum leader who has been in charge of writing a history of the Pulse massacre and its aftermath. This is because Pamela Schwartz used the Orange County Regional History Center exhibits to shine a positive light on Pulse Nightclub owner Barbara Poma, who was signing these invoices to be paid to Ms. Schwartz.

Schwartz placed Poma front and center of her exhibits at the Orange County Regional History Center, despite Barbara Poma being entangled in an ongoing premise liability lawsuit brought by victims/survivors and capitalizing off the tragedy.

Poma was later ousted from the nonprofit she started and walked away with $2M paid by the City of Orlando in addition to the six-figure salary she received for years as CEO of the nonprofit that collected donations to build a memorial museum and provide lifelong support to victims—but did neither.

UPDATE, MARCH 22, 2024:

Pamela Schwartz announces her resignation from the Executive Director position at the Orange County Regional History Center. This comes after we published the Investigative Report that Orange County was conducting into her toxic work environment with half of the allegations made against her sustained as violating County policy, as well as her being named publicly by a local news station as the only individual to receive a payout (over $90,000.00) from Orange County's TDT grant through the onePULSE Foundation. Schwartz said in her resignation letter that she is leaving the state. This, while the County is currently investigating/auditing the now combative OnePULSE Foundation for their (mis)use of TDT Funds.

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