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Meeting of the J. Joel Edwards Public Library Board of Trustees - February 14, 2019
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - The Library Board met on the afternoon of February 14, 2019. Those attending at the beginning of the meeting were Audrey Lanier (Chair), Anthony Vinson, Joy Walker, Curtis Ward (Treasurer), Rosemary Bunn (Library Manager), Natalie Marshall (Flint River Regional Library System (FRRLS) Representative, Gillian Appleton (Vice Chair), Rhonda Morgan (Acting Secretary), and Tina Venus.

I. Call to Order.

Chair Audrey Lanier called the meeting to order. [Note from the Editor: Kudos to Chair Lanier for ensuring that the Library Board agenda was made available to board members and the public prior to the meeting according to the Library Board's By-Laws.]

II. Determine quorum.

There was a quorum.

III. Approval of the Agenda.

Discussion about additions to the agenda.

Treasurer Curtis Ward made a motion to amend the agenda and asked that the word "corrections" be changed to "clarifications" in section B. This was approved.

Joy Walker also asked to amend the agenda to include board members talking about board business without approval of the board. Motion to amend the agenda to include board members talking board business outside of the board/conducting board business without board approval. It will be added as item D. Motion to add this approved with 4 voting in favor and 3 abstaining.

Motion to approve the agenda as amended. Approved 7-0.

IV. Approval of Minutes of January Meeting.

[Note from the Editor: Curtis Ward sent out an email to members prior to the meeting. He included the financials and explained in the email--as well as the meeting--how to look at these numbers in order for Board members to understand what they were looking at. He began with the following statement: "I hope that the agenda for our meetings can be amended. There are no "corrections" to be made to the December financial reports because there were no errors in those reports. I would be happy to provide "clarification" or facilitate a "discussion", but corrections more than implies that the reports were incorrect." He then ended with the following statement: "In short, this report is and always has been accurate. We were looking at it expecting to see one thing and not really looking for what it really tells us. Rather than looking for the spending and income from January, look at the YTD budget and see where our money is going." YTD means year to date in case readers are unfamiliar with financial lingo. This is what Joy Walker refers to in the next paragraph.]

Joy Walker told Chair Audrey Lanier that she has a problem with the remark about financials in section: "Chairman Lanier went on record that her confidence is low on that our financial record presented to the board is not correct." Joy said that she thinks that everyone jumped to conclusions on this without allowing Treasurer Curtis Ward to actually look over this. Joy said that it’s a serious allegation to say this. Audrey asked her to ask as a motion on where to remove or strike the section and Joy made the motion to strike the section saying “Chairman Lanier went on record…” No second. Joy said that this should not have been presented in this way and it indicates that something could be very wrong without evidence that there is. Discussion that was said in the meeting and that the board made a motion for the review so this is what happened in the meeting. They left this in the minutes.

[Note from the Editor: I added this note to my January Library Board meeting on 2.25.19 and have copied it verbatim here in reference to the discussion about Board finances from the past meeting... "I caught the gravity of what was being discussed, but I did not have a tape recorder with me to go back and listen to this so I missed Chair Audrey Lanier's "I want to go on the record and say..." comment that her confidence is low in the financials being presented to the Board actually being correct. This became evident in the next meeting and through an email that was sent from the Treasurer to all Board members prior to the meeting. I have looked at the financials and asked questions about the safeguards put in place to make a correct accounting of this public money. The regional library has a person who looks over each expenditure from our local library as well as Rosemary and Curtis being accountability measures on the local level. There are other county measures too including an auditor who goes over the library info with a fine-toothed comb each year and had just given the library a clean audit with no findings--which is a big deal in county politics. I knew that Audrey was grandstanding so it didn't bother me, but that is the equivalent of saying that public money was being mishandled and that SHOULD have caught my attention because it offended several of the Board members as well as the Library Manager and the Board Treasurer. I should have written that down in my original write up and apologize that I did not. I sincerely hope that members--and especially the Chair--are more careful with their words when they speak from here on out because that was a serious allegation that was proved to be incorrect in this meeting. It's one thing to ask for a more detailed explanation and more information, but quite another to go on the record with a serious allegation like this.]

Rosemary asked to make a statement and referred to the section of the Manager's Report that said: "The library closed one day for in-service training for new employees. Chairman Lanier explained that going forward in-services closings should be brought before the Board for approval. Manager Bunn explained that it was in between board meetings and so she could not get approval." She said that it was incomplete. She said that she did get approval from CM Bickley, who is her supervisor, so she got approval. Audrey made a motion to amend "from the Board" to say "and so she got approval from the county manager." Unanimous.

Motion to approve the minutes as amended.

V. Recognized Regional Representative

Natalie Marshall was in Atlanta yesterday and met with several senators and representatives about library funding. She is very hopeful and looking forward to the state budget for libraries.

She said that Board Training they have gotten feedback on October training and that it was positive overall. They may be moving it to the spring rather than fall.

Anthony asked for info to review between now and next meeting. Audrey said that Rhonda took really good notes at the training and suggested that she send it to him.

VI. Manager's Report

Most of the items like computers from the state have been installed according to Rosemary. (Patty came in at 4:48 p.m.)

Update on the Dance. It brought in somewhere around $4,500. People came from as far away as Hiawassee and Cuba. Audrey asked about where the money goes. The Friends of the Library are a 501(c)3, and they give funding as necessary to the library.

Seussabration is coming up on March 2. Because of our outreach, participation in our library events has doubled and tripled. Anthony asked if this is a result of being in the schools. Rosemary said yes. Gillian said that bookmarks that are going home are a big help too. Anthony asked how this works. Rosemary said that on the first Saturday of March every year to coincide with Read Across America she brings in famous people like grandmas, teachers, politicians, etc. to help read.

She has the budget proposal that is coming due on February 26th. It has to be in before the next board meeting. We are having to change to a Georgia Chart of Accounts budget. She put together the same budget as last year with just a few changes.

Discussion. Audrey asked if the board reviews it? They looked over it and said that requirements include Natalie. Specific duties are in sections C and D of the Memorandum of Understanding. Audrey said that it would be nice to know. Gillian said that we’ve spent hours poring over the budget in the past and as long as we’ve asked for at least our operating budget for the year, let the chips fall where they may. It always ends up changing anyway. More discussion and a consensus that Rosemary should go over it but not go line by line. Need one more computer at the front desk, 3% raise, increase in request for summer reading. This looks almost identical to last year’s budget because a couple of contractual obligations have gone down. Audrey asked if a copy could be kept with the minutes.

VII: Financial Report

Treasurer Curtis Ward sent something out about this. Profit and Loss Statement is there. Year to Date Line Item is important. This is from the fiscal year budget from July 18 to now. What we spent in January is from previous months. This report is up to date but if money hasn’t been deducted yet, it is not on here. Example: When we actually pay the electrical bill for January, it will be deducted from the checking account. The reconcile shows the bank statement and ties it to the checking and savings accounts.

The leger is in Quickbooks for now but will change to Smart Fusion with the new fiscal year. Looked at bank statements. Audrey asked if those could be included for the board to review because the account is in the board’s name. Several members praised Curtis for taking the time to review this.

Question about whose names are on the signature on the bank account and whether another person is needed. Two signatures are required on the check, but a second board member might be needed in case of Curtis being on a vacation, etc. Audrey made a motion to nominate Rhonda to be a second signature. Approved. Need to remove former Secretary Susan Goodwin who resigned after the January meeting. [Note from the Editor: More on this later in the meeting.]

MOU draft discussion. Audrey said that they would like the board’s feedback on this. Natalie said that this is the provision draft. County Attorney Rob Morton asked Audrey about the name and she asked them to put “J. Joel Edwards Public Library” in this so the commissioners asked to change it to the “J. Joel Edwards Public Library of Pike County." The bank account may need to be changed but Natalie said that it may not impact anything else. Audrey said that Rob called her and that he emailed the MOU to Audrey and Natalie and welcomed her feedback. She asked the name to be consistent. Discussion on what to call the library. Motion to ask the county manager to remove “of Pike County” to avoid additional costs and confusion with a new name. Audrey asked to get through this as quickly as possible.

Discussion: Just a couple of typos and removing “of Pike County.” Natalie is going to submit from the region. The Pike County Library is kind of a nickname, but the legal name is the J. Joel Edwards Public Library.

Rhonda pointed to Rosemary preparing the budget and filing it and said that the board doesn’t do anything with this. Motion to change “preparation and filing of reports” to “review of reports.” Approved.

Rhonda tried to glean responsibilities and found only 3 things in the MOU advise the FRRLS, provide oversight, etc., and review of reports and budgets. The bylaws have more and discussion on what to do with this.

The Board wanted to clarify that the legal name has not changed from “J. Joel Edwards Public Library.” Audrey asked if members would like her to address this and send a draft to the Board as a whole before it goes to the county manager. Yes.

Natalie will send grammatical/minor changes.

Curtis asked if there were any other questions about finances. (Curtis had to leave the meeting at 5:40 p.m.)

3 Year Plan. Vice Chair Gillian Appleton asked this to be included. Can we start looking again at the addition on the building? Consensus to pull this together and make a recommendation to the county about the addition to this library. Natalie said that if we get a state grant, this board will be a great way to advocate and work toward getting this done.

Motion to form a committee to put together a plan to put an addition on the library. Approved. Gillian said that she would be happy to head this up again.

Audrey asked if they could table additional discussion on this addition until we get the MOU, bylaws, etc. done. The 3 year plan will be front and center as soon as this is taken care of.

IX. New Business

Joy said that she would like to confirm that we can put a notice on the minutes that the board has full confidence in Rosemary’s reports being accurate. Now that Curtis has explained this, she said that it is very important to make this a part of the minutes. [Note from the Editor: It didn't. If it was important enough for the Chair's "on the record" comment to make the past minutes, this should be included too because these minutes are the official legal minutes of what happened in the meeting. I can write about this all day, but in the end, the minutes will be what people read years from now and there is a part of the January minutes where the Chair says that she has no confidence in the financials and then there is next to nothing in the February DRAFT minutes. Members can allow the February DRAFT minutes to stand as they are in the March meeting or they can take a stand and ask that something be added about the Board and being confident in the financial information given to them by the Library Manager and Board Treasurer. (The word DRAFT was added on 3.5.19 because it may not be clear that members approve the minutes at the next meeting. Yes, draft minutes are subject to open records, and that is how I obtained them.)]

The question was then asked if the Board met Joy's purpose of asking to amend the agenda to talk about members conducting business outside of the meeting? Gillian wanted to know what happened to bring that up. Audrey stated again that Rob sent it to her and asked for feedback and Audrey called him. [Note from the Editor: At first she said that Rob called her, but she remembered differently at the end of the meeting. Things were heated and these things happen. The emails show that Rob sent it by email and she called him.] Audrey said that she gets calls from county officials on a regular basis and said, “If I get asked a question, I will answer it. If I don’t know, I will say it.” Joy said that her fact-finding might have led them to believe that she could speak for the board.

Discussion continued. Gillian pointed out that if a decision on something needs to be made that a special called meeting be called if needed. Audrey said that she does not make decisions for the library board. She said that she has no authority to make any decisions for the board. A request was made that the board be informed if and when any communication takes place between the chair and any county entity. Audrey agreed with this. Gillian said that she is bringing this all out because of past animosity so that everyone can talk this over and work together and they can all conduct their business from here on out.

[Note from the Editor: This discussion goes back to January and other earlier meetings where the Chairman has been accused of conducting business outside of the Board meeting on behalf of the Board without the Board's knowledge. Article IV Section 9 says: “All decisions of the Board are made by the Board as a collective body. No individual member may make decisions or act for the Board unless specifically authorized to do so by a vote of the membership of the Board.” There is a discussion in the January meeting in the section under "Application to join the Board" that discusses this. There is some obvious frustration here with the Board as a whole and it is justified from what I've seen through Open Records Requests because an email dated February 15, 2019 shows Chairman Audrey Lanier advising the County Clerk (along with a cc to the County Manager, the County Commission Chair, and acting secretary Rhonda Morgan) that the past secretary had resigned, her open seat needed to be advertised, and to forward any submitted applications "to me or to the board secretary, Rhonda Morgan" that had not been forwarded to the rest of the Board by the time that I received my open records request that went through February 18, 2019. Hopefully that has been forwarded to the rest of the Board by now to show that this has been done and keep everyone in the loop because this is my understanding of what board members are asking for.]

A discussion was then held that anything that goes out on email is subject to open record. Anything that is library business and emailed to the library, regional, or any county entity is public record. A suggestion was made for a short email and nothing long and drawn out so that members are efficient with their time and everyone is kept up to date on library business between meetings.

More discussion on Audrey making suggestions on the MOU without the rest of the board having input before it went to the library board itself. Clarification that this was presented to the commissioners so it could be then be presented as a draft to the region and the advisory board and then go back to the commissioners as a final document that will be voted on by the commissioners at a later date.

Rosemary then said that she and Curtis were asked to report to the board about their findings about possible reallocation of library funds from the January meeting. (Vice Chair Gillian Appleton had to leave at 6:02 p.m.) Chair Audrey Lanier said that she doesn’t see how this can be done without Curtis. Audrey said that with the absence of the treasurer, she does not want this to be done tonight. Rosemary said that this is time sensitive and was still told no. Audrey suggested emailing it instead.

[Note from the Editor: They were to go through the checking account, figure out what will be left over when the checking account is turned over to the county at the end of the year, and make a suggestion for how to spend part of this money as soon as an ok is given to spend it from the County Manager. This is from the official minutes from January: "Vice-Chair Appleton made the motion to allow Library Manager Bunn and Treasurer Ward to analyze the checking account and budget line items to determine funds and report to the Board at the February meeting. Joy Walker seconded the motion. All approved. Motion passed." This should have been included as part of the February agenda because that is just how things are done. Items that are supposed to be done in the next meeting should be added to the agenda so they are not forgotten or left until the end of the next meeting like this one was. And it was obvious that this was done (and a lot of time had been put into it) because Rosemary had put together a visual for each item on a table as well as written amounts for what was being suggested. I was glad that several members stayed after the meeting to see this presentation that, if the county gives an ok for these funds to be spent on these new items, will bring a whole lot of people into our library because no one around us has what is being proposed. It's exciting, and I look forward to hearing about this in the March meeting!]

Discussion of Secretary Susan Goodwin's January 15, 2019 resignation. Audrey said that since it was submitted in writing, she asked for a recommendation on what to do with this. Acting Secretary Rhonda Morgan made a motion that we accept her letter of resignation and advise commissioners of the opening. Rhonda said that she will do this as the interim secretary. Susan was the regional representative and her spot needs to be filled by the April Regional meeting. [Note from the Editor: Pike County Times was blamed for this resignation in Ms. Goodwin's resignation letter, but I am of the opinion that if people are working together for a cause and there is nothing being done wrong, there will be nothing for me to see and report. It's a simple as that.]

Adjournment at 6:07 p.m.

[Note from the Editor: A series of emails went back and forth between Board members that included a CC to the County Manager after the February meeting. It was long and complicated so I am going to bullet point it without naming names of who said what. I literally have an inch high stack of open records regarding the library since I began attending meetings in November so I want readers to easily understand what is going on. I also welcome anyone who has a different opinion on this to send a letter to the editor because I'll be happy to print it. (ADDED late on 2.26.19: I actually have 2 inches of open records requests and not just one. I moved one stack and found another just like it from the December and January write ups.)

These emails began with Chairman Audrey Lanier defending her decision to not allow Library Manager Rosemary Bunn to speak at the end of the meeting. (Please note that this isn't the only time that she has discouraged discussion in a meeting. She refused to the Vice Chair add an item to agenda at the past meeting that would have walked through her responsibilities--which are being usurped by the Chair who wants to abide by Robert's Rules of Order but doesn't always abide by the By-Laws of the Library that define this Board's actual responsibilities. There have been other times that members have asked to add items to the agenda or to speak as well, but these are two of the biggest complaints.]

Audrey's points:

• This could have been addressed in the Library Manager's Report or the Financial Report, but it wasn't.
• She said that she was uncomfortable having the discussion without the Treasurer being present.
• And after additional thought she believes that the newly drafted MOU (memorandum of understanding) "limits the board's role and responsibilities concerning finances and the budget process with these responsibilities needing to be addressed between Rosemary (as the Library Manager) and County Manager (CM) Bobby Bickley (who is over all Department Heads in the county).

CM Bobby Bickley's reply:

• He confirmed that it is important for the Library Board to be informed and have input on the budget but all questions and requests should be discussed with him including personnel. [Note from the Editor: He replied in the very beginning and then let board members discuss the rest among themselves.]

Several board members disagreed with Audrey:

• One member said that the Library Manager and Board Treasurer were designated to investigate this matter in the January meeting and it should have been an agenda item under old business.
• This member said that Rosemary should have been allowed to speak regardless because even though the financials don't fall under the Board's authority, meeting the needs of the community is one of the Board's recommended advisory duties including giving feedback on whether or not members felt like the items presented would be well received by the community.
• Another member said that the board owed Rosemary and Curtis an apology for "the accidental omission and subsequent confusion" and suggested that the Board will still have advisory power, is charged with serving the community, and should exercise it toward "the needs of the community. When he asked that this be added to the March agenda, the Chair said no because that this is not something that the Board has authority to take action on and suggested that the findings be sent to the members, discussed with the County Manager, and then presented in the Library Manager's Report in March.
• One of two long-standing board members (the other agreed with Audrey) asked for this item to remain under Old Business and be discussed in the March meeting because the Board asked for a detailed accounting of the funds in order to determine if all of the money in the account came from county funding.
• She also said that it has been the policy of the board in the past to "value the input of all board members and the library manager" and that the entire Board could brainstorm, and make conclusions and suggestions this way without the Chair determining who can speak and when because the library manager is the "expert on library affairs" and to not allow her to speak is "not only disrespectful to her, but withholds or limits valuable information from the board."

One board member agreed with Audrey:

• She said that she is doubtful that any funds will be reallocated and said that she looks forward to seeing the emailed report but objected to giving an ok of the funding.
• This other long-standing board member went into a lecture about proper protocol according to Robert's Rules of Order and how members should ask to be recognized by the Chair so they can ask that Rosemary or Natalie be allowed to speak--or the Chair could ask for their input. [Note from the Editor: This is how the Board of Commissioners' meetings are conducted because there is always a public attendance (sometimes a large public attendance) in these meetings and it was needed. I've not seen anyone at these Library Board meetings except invited county officials during the past 4 months and have been told that it's unusual to have someone there to observe.]
• This member said that meetings are not always conducted as efficiently as possible and stressed the need for an orderly meeting.
• She also asked for a brief information/training session on Robert's Rules of Order to be held at the beginning of the meeting.

[Note from the Editor: I have run many a small meeting in my day and never needed to conduct by Robert's Rules of Order as has been discussed above because all of the members were interested in serving and working together to get a job done. I've also seen and read about Library Board meetings that were conducted without adhering to such a strict, specific protocol that people were disrespected and not allowed to speak by those in leadership. If the Library Manager isn't allowed to speak about library matters, why is the Library Board even here?! Just a thought...

But... if there simply MUST be a discussion about conducting an orderly meeting, my thoughts are that a discussion should also be held about the By-laws and the responsibilities of the officers too. Specifically the Vice Chairman's duties as the Vice Chairman has asked for the in the past meeting and was denied by the Chair. Why? Because the Chair has usurped duties that were not her responsibility including the mid-term vacancy of the past secretary. The secretary also needs to be voted on in the next meeting as an item on the agenda so it doesn't get forgotten. As I said in a prior write up, ALL of the rules should be followed and NOT just Robert's Rules of Order.

You can find out more about the J. Joel Edwards Public Library and their transition to an advisory board in the article below entitled "J. Joel Edwards Public Library Board of Trustees to Meet in January; Transitioning to a New Normal." This has not been an easy transition when it should have been fairly simple if everyone at the meeting was working together to support the library and the Library Manager according to their purpose which is as follows: “The purpose of the Library Board shall be to offer a full program of public library services to all citizens, adult, young adult, juvenile, in Pike County; to effectively assemble, use, administer, and disseminate library materials and information to meet the educational, informational, and recreational needs of the citizens of Pike County; to foster public awareness of the Pike County residents of its service area; to be informed of federal, state and local legislation affecting the extension and improvement of libraries; to encourage gifts, donations, endowments, and bequests for the J. Joel Edwards Public Library and to receive all such gifts, donations, endowments, and bequests.”

I had hoped that a Memorandum of Understanding with the county would help members as a whole to know where their boundaries are and to help focus on the purpose of this board, but that has not proven to the case yet. I am thankful for those who are there to genuinely support our library and the Library Manager with their words AND their actions. Because you can say a whole lot with your words, but if your actions don't back up your words, it is obvious that there is a problem.

This organization has been existence since it was created by the Board of Commissioners in October of 1980.]

Click here to read Pike County's Ordinances on board service. Page 11 begins Section 33.07 which is entitled "General Board Appointment Policies and Procedures." It lays out specific terms for voluntary service in Pike County. Sections (F) and (G) read as follows

(F)Responsibilities Upon Appointment. All appointees shall adhere to the provisions of the Pike County Code of Ordinances and the laws of the State of Georgia, including provisions related to public officials as well as ethics. Appointees shall diligently attend the meetings of the board, authority or commission to which they are appointed; and satisfactorily complete any training required for the appointment. All appointees shall represent Pike County with dignity, demonstrate ethical and professional behavior, show respect for others, devote sufficient time and preparation for meetings, maintain appropriate confidentiality of any privileged information, and abide by the Open Meetings and Open Records laws of Georgia.

(G)Removal. All appointments made by the Board of Commissioners to the various boards, authorities and commissions serve at the pleasure of the Pike County Board of Commissioners. Any person appointed by the Board of Commissioners may be removed with or without cause upon the majority vote of the Board of Commissions.

[Note from the Editor: The Chair did not attend mandatory training last year, but all of the rest of the board members did. On a side note, Library Board meetings are now being recorded so that should be more than sufficient evidence to prove or disprove any accusations that are being and have been made.]

Click here to read more about the training that was offered to our Library Board members to help them know their responsibilities as board members in the article entitled "J. Joel Edwards Public Library Board of Trustees to Meet in January; Transitioning to a New Normal."

To read about the November 8, 2018 meeting, click here.

To read about the December 13, 2018 meeting, click here.

To read about the January 10, 2019 meeting, click here.