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Brandon Township Library on administrative lockdown

November 27, 2013 - Brandon Twp.- The library doors are open to patrons, but administratively, the building is on lockdown.

"We can't move forward until a forensic audit," said Library Board Trustee Ann Schmid during the Nov. 25 library board meeting. "We have shut everything down administratively, the computers are literally unplugged. The state auditors have given no idea of the cost. We are starting with a 5-year audit, the detective said that, too."

The detective Schmid is referring to is Nick Pung, of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office. The library board has been in contact with Pung, as well as the Library of Michigan, since Paula Gauthier resigned as library director on Nov. 14.

Gauthier's resignation came the day after the library board had announced they would have a special board meeting to have the director answer questions as to why the library had not received state aid revenue for the past five years.

In her e-mailed resignation letter to the board, Gauthier wrote, "Although it is customary to offer two week notice, because of the current circumstance I will retire immediately, effective today, Nov. 14, 2013."

Gauthier did not address "the current circumstance." Contacted by phone about her resignation, her only comment was that "it was time."

State aid revenue varies from year to year and by facility.

Colleen Stringer, interim library director, provided 2006-2008 library budgets requested by The Citizen under the Freedom of Information Act, as well as a third draft of the proposed 2011 budget. Due to the lockdown of the administrative office, other budgets have not yet been located, she said.

The 2006 budget, approved June 15, 2006, shows $12,887 in state aid revenue. On the 2007 budget, however, the state aid revenue line shows $15,900 was approved for 2006. That same line shows the library expecting to receive $10,665 in state aid revenue as of Jan. 1, 2007, but a line item adjustment for May 2007 shows a state aid freeze. In the 2008 budget, the state aid revenue line says the library was approved for the $10,665 in August 2007, and a May 2008 draft revision shows $11,671 for state aid revenue, but then numbers off to the side show the library as receiving $9,639.42. In the third draft of the 2011 budget proposal, done in August 2010, $3,708 is budgeted in the state aid revenue line item, presumably based on what appears to be on a July 2010 number.

But where these numbers came from is anyone's guess at this point, since Bill DiSessa, a representative for the Michigan Department of Education, which oversees libraries in Michigan, confirmed that the library has not received state aid revenue for the past five years. The reason for being denied state aid revenue, he said, is because Gauthier did not provide the college transcripts necessary for a director overseeing a class 4 library, serving a population between 12,000-26,000, and thus was not certified.

Gauthier had previously claimed that she had a master's degree from the University of Michigan.

In addition to not receiving state aid revenue, the library has also not received universal service funds, a federal technology-based grant for libraries.

During the library board's Nov. 25 meeting, the board approved retaining the services of Attorney Bob DeWitt.

Board President Patricia Salter was joined by the rest of the board in thanking the library staff and inviting them to speak with board members personally about issues at the library.

"Our motto on the board is to keep calm and carry on," she said. "We have a wonderful library and we are dedicated to moving it forward."

The board will seek request for proposals for the forensic audit. The state has recommended two forensic auditing firms to the library. Schmid said she is waiting for return calls from the firms, one of which is located in Lansing, the other in Grand Rapids. The library board plans to choose a forensic auditing firm at their next meeting, set for 7 p.m., Dec. 19, at the library, 304 South St.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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