Source: Sherman Publications

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Library board eyes financial recovery
Board may seek a portion of former director’s salary

by Susan Bromley

March 26, 2014

Brandon Twp.- The library board is planning a civil lawsuit against former director Paula Gauthier to recover financial losses.

The board voted to pursue civil action during their March 24 meeting. Whether they will proceed following an investigation is dependent on the potential cost of a court case.

"The amount we will pursue has not been determined," said Board Trustee Ann Schmid. "We are looking at the minimum of recovering the amount of state aid revenue lost over the course of the past five years— around $35,000 to $38,000."

The board is also considering recovering at least a portion of Gauthier's salary paid over the course of the past five years, as she was not qualified for the job. Gauthier resigned suddenly Nov. 14, hours before she was to explain to the board why the library had not received state aid revenue during her 5-year tenure. The reason, it was determined, was that Gauthier never provided proof of having a master's degree to the state, required for the director of a library of Brandon's size. The board later learned that not only did Gauthier not have a master's degree from the University of Michigan as she claimed, she also does not have a bachelor's degree from Grand Valley State University as she purported.

After Gauthier's resignation, the board hired certified public accountant Karl Haiser for a forensic audit investigation at a cost of $5,000. The board also terminated in January their contract with Pfeffer, Hanniford, and Palka, the auditing firm they'd had for the past three years, with Schmid saying the library board wanted "a fresh start." Previous audits had not revealed that the library had not received state aid revenue due to Gauthier's deception.

During their Monday meeting, the board unanimously approved hiring Gabridge and Company of Grand Rapids as their new auditing firm. The 4-year contract will cost the library a maximum of $4,400 per year.

"They are going to do our annual audit and all that entails, as well as going through internal controls and suggesting an administration process for how money is managed, who has access, and where it goes," said Schmid. "The board will have a lot more involvement with every process."

The library board retained Attorney Bob DeWitt to advise them during the forensic audit and he was to meet with the board's finance committee Friday on proceeding with the civil case against Gauthier.

"The attorney will guide us for what can be recovered," Schmid said. "We don't want to spend taxpayer dollars for a lawsuit and pay attorney hours for an investigation into things we can't recover. We're trying to be prudent and practical."