Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Bulova's Big Lie": Chairman Bulova grossly mis-stated the intent of the Fairfax Citizens Federation request for an audit of our Public Library at the December 2, 2014, Board of Supervisors meeting.

As Reston 2020 has documented earlier in this post, the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations (FCFCA)--a confederation of County community civic  groups--sent a letter and an FCFCA resolution passed on September 18, 2014, to Board Chairman Sharon Bulova and the County Library Board of Trustees, calling for the County to conduct and independent fiscal and inventory audit of the Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) and its Departmental Gift Fund.

As seen on the County website (Board Matters:  Chairman Sharon Bulova on FCFCA Audit Request) and also documented by Reston 2020 in the Summary of the Board meeting, at the December 2, 2014, meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Chairman Bulova states, "Regarding financial policy, the Federation asked about the accounting practices of three separate entities:  The Fairfax County Public Library Gift Fund . . . also the Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library groups. . . ."

Chairman Bulova's statement is not true.  In fact, her statement brings up audit proposals that weren't mentioned in the Federation resolution or letter and ignores a key Federation resolution request all together.  Some County residents concerned about the deterioration of our library system are characterizing this mis-statement of the Federation's request as "Bulova's Big Lie."

A straightforward comparison of what Chairman Bulova said the Federation asked for and what we believe they actually asked for reveals the following:
  • The Federation did not ask for an audit or any other review of the Library Foundation or the Friends of the Library groups.  As both Supervisors Hudgins and Smyth suggested in the Board discussion, there is considerable doubt that the Board of Supervisors has the authority to order such an audit of these independent private 501(c)3 organizations or whether it would be constructive.
  • The Federation did intend to ask for an audit of the FCPL Departmental Gift Fund--administered by the Library Director under guidance provided by the Library Board of Trustees--which Chairman Bulova acknowledged accurately and asked the County audit staff examine.  
  • The Federation resolution also asked for "an independent comprehensive fiscal audit of the Fairfax County Public Library," a request that Chairman Bulova totally ignored in her remarks to the Board and in her written response to the Federation.  
  • The Federation also asked for an inventory of FCPL library holdings, noting that none had been conducted since 1988, to which Chairman Bulova responded that FCPL "conducts an annual inventory that reflects holdings by audience and item type."  This may or may not be true, but repeated Virginia Freedom of Information (VFOIA) requests to date for such an FY2014 inventory have been rejected by FCPL, saying it no longer keeps such an inventory.  Moreover, examination of earlier annual materials inventories by concerned community groups have shown significant and unexplained differences between this inventory and other FCPL holdings reports, including collection holdings, discards, etc.  An independent audit is long overdue.
The most charitable interpretation we can put on Chairman Bulova's remarks, especially those identifying the County Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library groups, is that she thought or was led to believe that the FCFCA request for an audit of the "system gift fund" was meant to cover ALL gifts under the County's Policy Regarding Gifts to and Alliances with the Library System.  That policy specifically identifies the Library Foundation as an intermediary for gifts to the library system, but it does not mention the Friends of the Library groups, which are linked to individual branches.  We have been unable to identify a fund specifically identified as the Library "System Gift Fund" as stated in the FCFCA resolution. Our understanding is that FCFCA's intent was to audit the Departmental Gift Fund, which Chairman Bulova directed.

What we do not know is whether Chairman Bulova was misled by the County staff--her own, the Executive staff (David Molchany, Deputy County Executive spoke for the County at the Board meeting), or the Library administration--as to the intention of the Federation request.  In any event, what Chairman Bulova said at the Board of Supervisors meeting on December 2nd and what she has written the Federation appear to be grossly inaccurate.  

She has the opportunity to clarify her mis-statements and reverse the Board resolution she sponsored during the otherwise relatively quiet holiday period ahead, but there is no evidence at this point that she will.  

1 comment:

  1. What does Bulova have against libraries and library Friends ? These endless budget cuts and other attacks make absolutely no sense !

    ReplyDelete

Your comments are welcome and encouraged as long as they are relevant, constructive, and decent.