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Library's forensic audit completed; no 'surprises'

March 12, 2014 - Brandon Twp.- A forensic audit of the library, prompted by the sudden resignation of Director Paula Gauthier, has yielded "no surprises" and is complete.

Full details of the audit investigation will not be released until the next library board meeting, set for 7 p.m., March 24, at the library, 304 South St.

"We are in the process of executing a recovery plan, finding out if we are going to pursue financial recovery from Paula," said Library Board Trustee Ann Schmid. "There were no surprises (in the audit). We all knew the last three months that some things were a little different, but no gasps. It was money well spent on the forensic audit and we had to spend it to move forward, we couldn't have moved on without taking this step."

Karl Haiser, a certified public accountant, was contracted by the library board at a cost of $5,000 in December to conduct the first phase of the audit, examining the library's financial books, as well as "anything" that had gone through administration during the past five years Gauthier has been director and during which the library has not received state aid revenue.

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 a closed session at a special meeting March 10, Haiser gave the completed audit results to the board.

"Karl Haiser mentioned that credential fraud is the biggest thing in there, but that is only part of the equation," said Schmid. "No one found any proof that she had a degree. Part of me is saying, 'Let's move forward and forget the past,' but the public wants more and the staff does, too. The board has to decide. There are no guarantees no matter what we do. I'm glad we have a week to think of things and it gives our attorney time to decide what our best options are."

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

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Citizen obtained budgets created by Gauthier and approved by the board that showed the library due to receive amounts in state aid revenue ranging from $3,700 up to $15,900. The library never received a penny in state aid the past five years.

After the board appointed Adult Services Librarian Colleen Stringer as interim director after Gauthier's resignation, the properly credentialed Stringer was able to obtain 2013-14 state aid revenue for the library in the amount of about $8,862.

The library board retained Attorney Bob DeWitt late last year to guide them regarding results of the forensic audit and Gauthier's actions.

Schmid said the board continues to evaluate the library's budget weekly to avoid perpetuating past problems.

In January, a 2014 budget originally created by Gauthier with revenues and expenditures of $888,914 was cut by almost $100,000, after Stringer asked every department head what was the least they could function with. Cuts included professional memberships for staff, mileage reimbursements, inter-library deliveries, and programs. The final approved 2014 budget was $790,000.

The board terminated their contract early with the auditing firm of Pfeffer, Hanniford, and Palka in January. During the March 24 meeting, they will select a new auditor, from one of four candidates who submitted proposals.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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