QUESTION 1 – Why does the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh need the extra money it is seeking?
ANSWER – Under the Library's current board structure and a management headed by directors who for over a decade now have failed to meet the minimum qualifications required by the state library code, the Library has, with the RAD Board's approval, engaged in an extravagant construction campaign that has left it saddled with capital debt service which is roughly equal to its current and projected deficits. If the Library does not receive the extra money it will need to cut service to members of the general public who have had no hand in causing the Library's financial problem, people who rely upon its services during the current economic downturn which has left many financially stressed and without other options for job seeking information among their other information needs.
QUESTION 2 – Why should the RAD Board approve a bailout – in the form of the additional funding requested – for what is arguably the result of serious mismanagement?
ANSWER – Because the RAD Board shares co-responsibility for the mismanagement of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in having first approved the use of RAD funding for coverage of the Library's debt service in 2001. In the years since I have repeatedly come before the RAD Board to complain and warn of the Library's mismanangement but my warnings have fallen upon deaf ears. That is bad enough, but within the past year this RAD Board also approved the Library taking out an even larger bond instead of simply refinancing its obligation and having a lower debt service payment. Said in other words, the situation is comparable to parents who are unable to feed their children because of their high mortgage payments deciding to refinance and take advantage of lower interest rates, but instead of just paying off the old mortgage and having lower monthly payments, they borrow even more money to build a swimming pool in the back yard, leaving their new payments exactly the same and thus remaining unable to feed their kids. Yes, this Board approved it and shares in the responsibility for it. Now it is your time to own up to it and do the right thing by stepping forward with the funding to bail the Library out.
QUESTION 3 – Won't simply bailing out the Library be a violation of the RAD Board's fiduciary responsibility and compound its previous errors?
ANSWER – Well, it is true that your predecessors on the Board have already shirked that responsibility in approving the mismanagement in the first place and you who are sitting are complicit in having approved the increase of debt in this year's refinancing. And, YES, simply giving more money would compound the error. But, you now have a model remedy set forth by the federal government in its bailout of trouble sectors of the ecomy. In providing the necessary funding, the Feds have in each case insisted upon the replacement of top management and the replacement and restructuring of the boards of the recipient entities. In following the federal bailout model, you can finally correct those errors and remedy the situation.
QUESTION 4 – What are the legal obligations of the RAD Board and its members?
ANSWER – First and foremost, you are bound to uphold the law and not knowingly contribute to the blatant violation of the law by the entities you fund. Given the current state of affairs this leaves you in somewhat of a legal limbo. First, you have your enabling legislation's requirement to fund the Library. Seems simple enough, but it gets more complicated.
Second, you have the requirement that you only fund libraries which qualify for state funding. Yet, in the past year, the Library has pointed out in court proceedings that by its current board structure it is a private entity and not “an integral part of the municipal government” as required for it to receive state funding. This is based upon a 1972 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision which held that where the majority of a board is not composed of public officials or their appointees who answer to them, the entity they run is not public. Up until 1994, the Library Board never had a non-public majority. It was evenly split between public and private until 1977 at which time it was restructured to create 10 public seats and 8 non-public seats. However, in 1994 10 new seats were created for corporate fund raisers and 10 more were added in 2004, giving the corporate seats an absolute majority over the entire 18 member original board. As such, the Library fails to qualify for state funding and consequently for RAD funding.
But that's not all. The third is that for over a decade the Library has ignored the state library code requirements for the qualifications of its director and of those running a number of its branches. In the case of the director, as a district library, the minimum qualifications are a minimum of a Masters in Library Science and 5 years previous experience in the management of a library system. Branches must also be under the management of a qualified librarian, which requires they, too, have a Masters in Library Science. The blatant failure of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to comply with these minimal standards and the RAD Board's open knowledge of these breeches, places you, the RAD Board members in legal jeopardy.
The only solution, therefore, is for the RAD Board to insist upon the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's full compliance with at least the minimum state requirements; upon it replacing its management with new qualified personnel; and upon a restructuring of the board to make it public again as a condition for the provision of any RAD funding. Then – with clear legal, moral, and ethical standing – you should provide the funding necessary to bail the library out of the current financial situation which the RAD Board has been complicit in creating.