Who altered records about a donation from the city of McMinnville to Magness Library for fiscal year 2012-13? An investigation is ongoing.
According to Mayor Jimmy Haley in an email to Betty Jo Jarvis, director of Stones River Regional Library, official records were changed to make it appear the city increased its maintenance of effort (MOE) contribution to the library from $48,000 to $70,000.
“As you know, this library issue has become controversial,” Haley said. “I am concerned about the cut in funding, but I assure you that the documentation for last year’s MOE was altered by someone before it was submitted.”
Haley was responding to a letter from Jarvis dated Sept. 16 that questioned the city’s donation reduction to the library from $70,000 last year to $48,000 this year. The reduction is viewed as a maintenance of effort violation for not matching the previous year’s donation.
“The MOE form submitted for this current year indicates last year city appropriations were $70,000 with a reduced amount of $48,000 for the current year,” said Jarvis. “If the city’s appropriation for the library has, indeed, been decreased by $28,000, this constitutes a MOE violation.”
The Tennessee State Library and Archives, through the Regional Library System, provides ongoing support from local libraries. Through the partnership, Stones River Regional Library allocates resources specific to local libraries in the form of funds for books and materials, technology support, and staff training.
Jarvis suspended support of Magness Library on Sept. 16.
“Until this matter is cleared up, we have frozen spending on the library’s account for books and materials (a loss of $15,780.48) and will prepare to discontinue other services,” she said.
However, the matter was cleared up Sept. 25 when the city sent Jarvis a copy of the ordinance pertaining to last year’s donation.
Haley says the controversy began because the Maintenance of Effort agreement signed in fiscal year 2012-13 by former mayor Dr. Norman Rone and current Warren County Executive John Pelham was altered.
Pelham signed the agreement first on Aug. 9, 2012, retained a copy for county records, and sent the document to the city for the mayor to sign. Pelham’s copy of the agreement shows a computer-generated document that states the city’s appropriation to the library for the year is $48,000.
While in the city’s hands, but before a copy was sent to the state, the document was altered with white-out used to change the city’s appropriation from $48,000 to $70,000. While other dollar amounts on the city’s copy are in type, the $70,000 amount is handwritten over the white-out.
It is unknown if the change was made before or after Rone signed it.
When contacted by the Southern Standard, Rone says he did not look at the amount before he signed it.
“The document was on my desk with other documents for me to sign,” said Rone. “I assumed it was right. I just signed it. To be honest, I didn’t look at the amount.”
Rone denies being the one who changed the document.
“No, I didn’t change it. I do believe the board’s intent was to increase the city’s maintenance of effort to the library to $70,000, but I would never change the document and I don’t know who changed it.”
Bringing the document’s alteration to light is the recent financial struggle between city and library officials over this year’s donation of $65,000 — a regular donation of $48,000 and a one-time donation of $17,000 — being lower than last year’s combined donation of $70,000.
While Magness Library director Brad Walker contends the board’s intent was to increase the library’s maintenance of effort to $70,000, city officials stated the ordinance passed at the time clearly states that $22,000 of the $70,000 would be a one-time donation.
As part of his argument, Walker used the agreement signed by the mayor in 2012 as a way to prove the city’s maintenance of effort was increased to $70,000 which prompted Haley to pull the city’s documentation and the alteration was discovered.
Haley has promised to get to the bottom of the situation.
“We are investigating the change in documentation, but I am sending all our public records showing what was legally done on our part,” Haley wrote to Jarvis. “I hope to clear this matter soon with the least amount of controversy and publicity on anyone’s part. My investigation may have to reveal the person who changed the documentation before it was submitted to your office. I plan to act accordingly.”