Hills mayor pro tem brings council requests to library board

Richard Lerner
Richard Lerner (City of Farmington Hills)

Farmington Hills Mayor Pro Tem Richard Lerner spoke during a Thursday Farmington Community Library Board meeting, continuing a contentious discussion that began during public comment at Monday’s Hills city council meeting.

What started with petitions to save the library’s Chapters Cafe has become a tug-of-war over library budget information, library board procedures and appointments. Lerner said Thursday that the city council would like to see:

  • more budget detail than the one-page document and annual audit the library provides
  • a copy of the library’s budget made available to the public
  • library purchasing done through “an open process that is transparent” and
  • “meticulous compliance” with the Open Meetings Act (OMA)

Lerner said the city would offer the services of city staff and the city attorney free of charge to provide the board with guidance on OMA, purchasing, meeting minutes, and budget.

To library board president Gerald Bosler, that sounded like “micromanaging”. Bosler said the library budget is not as complicated as the city’s budget and includes line items that account for staff salaries, information resources, utilities, building maintenance, and other expenditures.

“This is not rocket science,” he said. “We don’t need and are not able to create a 300-page budget.”

Lerner said officials have no interest in micromanaging. He said he asked city council members whether they sought to influence members of the library board, and all said they had not – but library trustees had tried to influence some council members.

“If you have concerns, the way to handle it is to have Mr. Bosler and (Mayor Ken) Massey get together and solve the problem,” he said.

Lerner criticized a recent “single source, no bid” contract and said bidding out contracts is “good for the library and good for the taxpayers.”

During the meeting, technology coordinator Mary Carleton said the library works with a number of consortiums to get better pricing. And Library Director Elyse Streit said certain types of expenditures, like those related to proprietary systems, do not go out for quotes. The library board has on file a resolution to continue working with Library Design Associates – the firm that designed the Main Library in 1972 and a 2003 expansion.

“This is their business,” she said. “We have dealt with these people for a very long time.”

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