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Library investigation moves forward



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December 25, 2013 - Brandon Twp.- Karl Haiser will conduct the first phase of a forensic audit of the library.

"We are really focused on seeing if there was anything besides mismanagement going on," said Library Trustee Ann Schmid. "We are going after restitution if we possibly can."

The library board approved the hiring of Haiser, a certified public accountant from Grand Blanc, at a cost not to exceed $5,000, during the board's Dec. 19 meeting. Haiser will examine the library's financial books, as well as "anything" that has gone through administration, Schmid explained. The administrative office has been on lockdown, but the library remains open during regular business hours for patrons.

The library board called a meeting Nov. 14 for Library Director Paula Gauthier to answer questions about why the library had not received state aid revenue funding for the past five years. Hours before the meeting was to be held, Gauthier e-mailed her resignation to the board without an explanation as to why, writing, "Although it is customary to offer two week notice, because of the current circumstance I will retire immediately, effective today, Nov. 14, 2013."

Contacted by phone, her only comment regarding her resignation was that "it was time."

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.

Since Gauthier's resignation, Schmid said unpaid bills totalling almost $25,000 have been found in the administrative office. The board continues to work on the 2014 library budget, which she called "bare bones."

The budget Gauthier had originally given the board is not accurate and the board has gone through every line item and asked staff in each department to cut everything they could. There is no money to hire a new director or administrative assistant, she added, and Colleen Stringer, adult services librarian, will continue to be interim director for the foreseeable future.

"We made payroll, that was our priority," said Schmid. "We have paid utilities and what we thought was crucial at the end of November and prioritized bills. The staff is keeping everything together, they've really stepped up."

The next library board meeting will be 7 p.m., Jan. 27, at the library, 304 South St.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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