By Diane Madigan
Independent Special Writer
On a 5-1 vote at its regular meeting April 9, the Belleville Area District Library Board voted to limit the person holding the office of treasurer to three, consecutive, one-year terms.
The board member who proposed the term limit was Treasurer Elaine Gutierrez, who was not present at the meeting because of intense work on income tax returns at her job with Belleville Tax and Accounting Service.
Because the email she sent to alert the board that she couldn’t attend the meeting did not go through because of some computer glitch, Gutierrez was marked with an unexcused absence.
At previous meetings, Gutierrez had urged the board to put in term limits for the office of treasurer because it is such a sensitive role and has the most risk for fraud. Since she has a business background, she has accepted the office from the beginning, but would like to see others in that position.
In January a move to have term limits for the board president, as well, was not acceptable to President Mary Jane Dawson, who has been president from the time the board was appointed as an interim board and then after the board was elected. Board member John Juriga also spoke against term limits.
Board member Juriga cast the only no vote on the treasurer term limit, asking, “Why do this? We have Traskos for fraud. We have Alan C. Young for fraud,” naming the board’s CPA Ron Traskos and the board’s auditor.
“Why do we do this? What is the fear here?” he continued.
Board member Joe Monte, who serves on the bylaw committee that proposed the change, said, “Someone might feel that they have to stay,” obviously referring to Gutierrez.
Juriga said, “You have the constitutional right to say no.”
“Not everyone has financial talents,” said board member Mike Boelter. “I’m not a bean counter.” Monte said they wouldn’t like him as treasurer, either.
“Elaine felt a little corralled into it,” said board member Christine Brasil, referring to Gutierrez’s reelection as treasurer.
Brasil said checks require two signatures, but online banking does not. Library Director Deb Green said she went to a workshop on fraud and it was said that auditors don’t find most of the fraud. It’s the staff that finds it.
Brasil said Gutierrez felt somebody else should look at the books and she has refused to do it another year.
Brasil has had a variety of offices on the board and now is “shadowing” Gutierrez so she could try the job next year, if necessary.
Board secretary Joy Cichewicz said the proposed change would require that fresh eyes would look at the treasury every three years.
“Ron and the auditor: Aren’t they fresh eyes?” asked President Dawson.
“Not everything goes before them,” Brasil said.
“It’s harder for some of us to say no,” Brasil said of Gutierrez’s feelings about the position. “She could take a step back for a year.”
In other business at the 40-minute meeting on April 9, the board:
• Decided to hold off on approving a $6,000 marketing contract until the May 13 meeting so the board can meet Susan Kennedy before it votes. On April 1, the Marketing Committee, Director Green and Deputy Director Mary Jo Suchy met with Kennedy from K2 Communication Plus (K2+). Juriga said Kennedy had developed the mission statement and created a strategic plan for Canton’s library. K2+ hopes to gather information on the needs of Sumpter, Van Buren, and Belleville via research activities to guide future planning and strategy for the local district library. Juriga asked attorney John Day about a need for getting three bids and Day said that is not necessary for a professional person, if you believe this personal has a skill that is personal to them that qualifies them;
• Heard Director Green report that the 18 participants in the Adult Literacy Program have completed three of the five tutor training sessions and three people have already expressed an interest in learning to read;
• Heard Green announce the Communities Matter Video Premier at the library from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, as part of National Library Week celebration. Fifty people, who are elected officials from the tri-community and members of local community groups, were recorded each reading a line from “Casey at the Bat.” The video is 4-5 minutes long and the board would like to see it shown on local cable channels. The first 100 guests on April 20 will receive a free gift that has to do with the program (not a bat!);
• Heard a report on Unique Management Services, the library’s collection agency. From 1,178 accounts from September 2001 to January 2013 the library has recovered $55,221.95 in materials, $18,320.98 in cash and $2,755.92 waived for a total value of $76,298.85. Although a total cost to the library was not given, from the graph provided it appears the cost was about $11,500; and
• Was reminded that for the month of April, the library is accepting non-perishable food items to pay off library fines. The bag of fresh potatoes left on the library porch was taken to the Methodist Church Food Pantry for immediate distribution since the library workers didn’t want to hold onto it for the month.
The 40-minute regular meeting went into a closed-door session to consider the purchase and/or lease of real property. Attorney Day announced there would be no vote other than to adjourn when they went back into regular session.
At the board’s March 12 meeting it was announced that in a closed-door session in April board members would review the new appraisal figures concerning the Department of Natural Resources site and the adjoining Spencer property on the lake north of the Belleville Bridge – the area being considered for site of a new library.
The DNR wanted to know what the Spencer house’s land would be worth without the house on it and how much property along Belleville Lake is worth.
By Diane Madigan