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Calloway Co. Judge Exec. Requests Docs Involving Library Staff Using Funds to Further Education

Matt Markgraf, WKMS
Calloway County Judge Executive Larry Elkins reads an open records request, dated July 19, to the Calloway County Library Board

Calloway County Judge Executive Larry Elkins is requesting information from the Calloway County Library Board related to taxing district funds being spent to further the education of library employees.

Judge Elkins read aloud a newly-penned open records request during the 'public comment' period of a special-called meeting of the Calloway County Library Board on Wednesday night. He and the library board have had a lengthy feud over numerous matters, including renovation and expansion efforts, the Higgins House and invoices and credit cards.

To preface his new request for information, Elkins cited a past request regarding library projects and operational issues. "I requested through an open records request several documents including payment, ledgers, etcetera. After reviewing, I determined, as would be expected, that many invoices were direct-billed to the library. I also determined that some of the goods and services are being charged to a BB&T credit card."

His new request, related to the invoices and billings, calls for copies of documents (including transcripts, reimbursements, etc.) related to employees furthering education through Clarion University from July 1, 2011 through the present. He also requested documents related to tuition or payments to other universities involving employees. In addition, he is seeking any documented discussion (i.e.: meeting minutes or emails) as to why Murray State wasn't chosen for employee college education opportunities.

Following his reading, Elkins expressed support for the library: "I do support the library. Those of you who know me know that I support the library. And it's unfortunate from a personal standpoint that some people in this organization and outside engage in slanderous newspaper articles and so forth. But those of us in this position, certainly, that's part of what we do."

After the meeting, Library Board President Ricky Lamkin told WKMS anyone can make an open records request and that he has nothing to hide. "If somebody makes an open records request, it's going to be honored. Period. As long as I'm on the board," he said.

Here's how Lamkin explained the Clarion University issue to WKMS: "We have a policy allowing employees to request of the director permission to take a library science class. That policy has been in effect for decades. The trouble is we don't have any policy that mandates that those employees who are receiving the benefits of tax payers paying their tuition, fees and books has to remain at the library. So we're going to fix that. I mean, it doesn't make any sense that we're going to pay somebody to get a master's and then they go to Murray State and go to work - or Austin Peay. So we're going to fix it."

Library Director Mignon Pittman told WKMS, "In our handbook it says that if it is possible, if we have the funds and the budget, that we encourage staff to continue their education if they want. So that's Clarion University. And they have a program that is all online. So our managers are taking classes there."

With regard to Elkins' question as to why staff wasn't instead taking courses locally at Murray State, Pittman said MSU doesn't have an MLS program or a regular library program specializing in public libraries. She said the money being spent is in the allocated budget.

Murray State's Library Media Program is geared towards certification for P-12 school media libraries in Kentucky, according to their website.

According to Kentucky Public Library Association standards, the director and a percentage of staff are required to have a Master’s Degree in Library Science (MLS) or a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS) to meet "enhanced" or "exemplary" standards. This is not required to meet "essential" standards.

Other Meeting Items

Expansion and Renovation

Most of the meeting centered around assessing and approving library budgetary financial reports with an emphasis on growing the building reserve fund to more than $3 million.

"Personally, I'd like to see as much of that building reserve as we can because I'm hopeful this year, this year, we're going to have some great movement on renovation and expansion," Lamkin said.

There was general agreement to grow this while ensuring there is money in a contingency fund. Specifically, the motion voted on is: to deposit $90k additional savings (instead of $125k) into contingency and the extra $35k would be added to the budgeted $246,100 going into the reserve amount being added to the building reserve fund.

Credit Matt Markgraf, WKMS
The Higgins House next to the library

Higgins House

Now that the Higgins house deed has been recorded, the house returned to the library's possession, the board called for a local surveyor to take off 20 feet from the east line of the property from north to south.

To add context, Lamkin told WKMS that the preliminary architect engaged in the expansion and renovation project, and the Higgins House, suggested the library retain 20 feet to add some buffer space between the house. Lamkin also noted there was a driveway entrance at one point, which is still visible. He said if, for example, the board were to sell the house it would be 20 feet less in width than before. He also said the walkway connecting the buildings would be taken down.

Open Board Position

An application period for an open position on the board ends by close of business on August 2. Lamkin said he would inform previous applicants to re-apply and encouraged anyone to apply who may be interested. The applicants would be reviewed at the August 9 meeting.

Next Meeting

The next meeting will discuss an audit, the compensating tax rate, trustee applications and further update on the Higgins House.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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