Several Farmington Community Library trustees raised questions Thursday over outsourcing and a $13,000-plus legal bill.
Trustee Bob Hahn asked about the payment to Barnes & Thornburg, a nation-wide firm with offices in metro Detroit. He pointed out that the library already has Michigan-based firm Foster Swift on retainer and asked what the second firm had done and would do for the library.
Director Riti Grover said she brought in Barnes & Thornburg when the library needed “help and guidance” with personnel issues and Foster Swift was not immediately available. She wasn’t able to provide details about the agreement during the 6 p.m. board meeting.
“How did we come to hire them? How is it that I’m not aware of this?” Hahn asked. “I would like to know more about how we came to retain a second law firm without myself or other board members knowing this.”
Board vice president Bill Largent said that he recommended hiring Frank Mamat, Attorney-In-Charge for Barnes & Thornburg’s Detroit Metro, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and South Florida offices, because of an urgent matter that arose during a personnel committee meeting.
“I’ve known him for 25 years,” Largent said. “Riti interviewed him. We operated under the emergency authority provided under closed session to deal with the issue at the time, and we’re still dealing with that issue.”
Limit dependence on vendors
Later in the meeting, trustee Danette Duron-Wilner asked that trustees “put some parameters around outsourcing.” She offered a motion that the board “significantly limit dependence on outsourced vendors,” and suggested a time limit of first quarter 2021 and a threshold of reducing costs by 50 percent.
Duron-Wilner’s motion focused specifically on informational technology, marketing, organizational effectiveness, and human resources vendors. The library also contracts with Plante Moran (accounting), MBM Technology Solutions (information technology), MCCI (communications and social media), and consultant Cynthia Pepper (human resources).
Hahn shared Duron-Wilner’s concern, but argued the limitations should incorporated within new by-laws, rather than acting “piecemeal.” He and Duron-Willner agreed to replace the 50 percent cost-reduction requirement with “reducing costs significantly”.
Largent cast the lone vote against the measure. He also suggested the by-laws committee include an emergency provision that would give the director and board some leeway in decision-making.
Trustees also approved Duron-Wilner’s motion to prohibit board members from directly communicating with a vendor or consultant without prior consent of the board president, vice president, and executive director. Hahn opposed the measure.
Listen to the full board meeting: