The mystery behind who altered records about a donation from the city of McMinnville to Magness Library has been solved.
It was the director, in the library, with a bottle of whiteout.
“I did it,” said Magness Library director Brad Walker. “It wasn’t anything underhanded or deceptive. I was assured by city officials that their maintenance of effort was increased to $70,000, so I took a bottle of whiteout and changed the amount from $48,000 to $70,000.”
Walker says he took the maintenance of effort agreement to Warren County Executive John Pelham, who signed it on Aug. 9. The document stated the county’s appropriation to the library would be $116,000, while the city’s appropriation to the library would be $48,000.
“I went to have the mayor sign it the following week, but he was out of town,” said Walker. “That Friday, I received a phone call from Alderman Billy Wood who asked me to hold off because he felt the city might increase its donation and they wanted it on the MOE.”
The city board voted on Aug. 15 to increase its donation from $48,000 to $70,000, says Walker.
“We were shocked the city increased our donation to $70,000,” he said. “We didn’t expect that much. At the time, we were assured by the mayor and aldermen the amount would be included in our MOE. There was never any mention of the additional $22,000 being a one-time donation. ”
Because of board members’ affirmation, Walker says he took a bottle of whiteout and changed the amount from $48,000 to $70,000 prior to the mayor signing it.
“I gave the document to (Magness Library board chairperson) Pat Bigbee and she took it into City Hall for the mayor to sign,” said Walker.
Walker continued, “I said ‘If the mayor doesn’t want to sign it, then I will print out a new one and I have Pelham sign it’.”
Bigbee says she never brought the change to Rone’s attention.
“I didn’t say anything and I guess he didn’t notice it,” said Bigbee. “I honestly didn’t think anything of it. He signed it and we sent it to the state. We believed the maintenance of effort was set at $70,000.”
Using whiteout on an official document wasn’t his brightest moment, says Walker.
“If I had this to do over, I would have printed a new document and had Pelham and Rone sign it. I haven’t done a lot of documents like that. It was my second MOE. I never thought anything about it. I know now that you don’t do that. I made a mistake.”
A mistake, but not forgery.
“It was changed before Mayor Rone signed it,” said Walker. “I would not have changed it after he signed it. I would not do something like that. I might be naive about some things but I know what forgery is. That was never forged in any form or fashion. It was a simple mistake that I shouldn’t have made.”
Rone is glad to be off the suspect list.
“I’m glad Brad came forward because I wouldn’t want anyone thinking I changed the document,” Rone said. “To be honest, if I had noticed the change from $48,000 to $70,000, I would have signed it anyway.”
The board’s intent was to increase the library’s MOE to $70,000, says Rone.
“I mentioned it more than once during the meeting that increasing the donation would increase the maintenance of effort to the library. The board increased its donation to $70,000. I don’t care if it’s a one-time donation or not. If you give it once, you should keep giving it. The library is an asset to this community and we should support it.”
According to Walker, he admitted to current Mayor Jimmy Haley three months ago that he was the individual who changed the document.
“I don’t know why Jimmy would act like he didn’t know who had done it,” said Walker. “I told him back in July that I had done it. Yet, he made it sound like there was some big investigation into who had changed it. Maybe he forgot.”
Magness Library’s funding from Stones River Regional Library was suspected by director Betty Jo Jarvis on Sept. 16. It was resumed Sept. 25 after Haley sent a copy of the ordinance pertaining to last year’s donation and Jarvis agreed that a mistake had occurred.