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June 17, 2012Posted Friday, June 22, 2012, at 8:05 AM
We held a meeting of the Human Resources/Budget Committee last Thursday afternoon. The purpose of the meeting was to finalize recommendations to the city council on employee salaries and the employee benefit package for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The committee's recommendations will be presented to the entire city council tomorrow night, June 18, for changes or final approval.
I received a letter from the Dunkin County Library Board last week. The letter was also addressed to Bill Green and David Black. I, along with Sally Ware, Liz Provence, Shelby Thompson, Arden Tolleson, Wayne Baker, Jan Maddox, Gina Santie, and James Burrow were co-recipients. The reason I list all these people is that they went as a group to the May meeting of the Library Board in Kennett, and they asked the board to reconsider its decision to build the new Malden library on Stoklan Drive just south of the nursing home. The group that went to Kennett asked that the library be constructed in Malden's downtown area.
The letter from the library board, signed by library director Jo Nell Minton, indicated that the board had labored long and hard over its decision to locate the library on Stoklan Drive.
In that letter, which gives no reason for the choice, there is a paragraph which states, "We contacted Mayor Santie by letter in 2008 and asked for his advice and he did nothing." This is a blatant lie. I have no memory of receiving the letter, but it is not that assertion with which I quarrel. It is the quote, "did nothing," with which I disagree. I have had numerous conversations over the last four years with Director Minton about possible locations for a new library. Space does not permit details, but if anyone is interested I will be happy to supply more information.
A brief list of the sites offered by me to the director include: the old Beckwith School property, the property on the southeast corner of S. Madison and E. Laclede, the property between Quality Center and Pizza Express on S. Madison, and the property on the northeast corner of W. Laclede and S. Beckwith. All of these sites were discussed at length with the director. Mr. Ken Lentz was appointed by the Dunklin County Commission to represent our area on the county library board (I served on the Dunklin County Library Board in the 1980's, am familiar with its operations and have known Director Minton for 25 years). Mr. Lentz was elected by our community to serve on the Malden School Board. Since 2008, Mr. Lentz has not once spoken to me about a new library in Malden. In the spring of 2011, Director Minton called me and asked if the City of Malden would donate the current library and land, which was owned by the City of Malden, in order for the library board to sell that property and building and use the proceeds towards the construction of our new library. I agreed to help.
In July 2011, Mr. Lentz appeared at our city council meeting and asked for the donation of the existing library and land. The city council was very accommodating. They agreed to donate the building and land with only a few questions about the location of a new library. Mr. Lentz stated that no decision had been made. We, as mayor and council, never heard from Mr. Lentz again. In September, 2011, the city attorney presented me with the deed conveying our existing land and library to the Dunklin County Library Board. I signed that deed. I propose the following time line: July meeting, we voted to convey the land; September, we actually delivered the deed; the third Monday in October, the library board met and had possession of our library and land; on November 15, at the first Malden School Board meeting after the October library meeting, Mr. Lentz appeared as a member of the school board and requested a "closed session" in which he asked the school to donate land for new library.
In conversation with current school board members, they have told me that they knew nothing about a new library on school land until that November 15 meeting. Connect the dots.
Why am I personally offended by Mr. Lentz's and Ms. Minton's conduct? I am offended because when the dozen or so people mentioned above met with the library board and asked that the new library be built in our recently remodeled downtown with its new police station and senior nutrition center, they were told "No." Part of the reason for the "No" was that I "did nothing." In this whole process, I had no vote in the matter. Mr. Lentz had two votes. He voted as a member of the library board and as a member of the school board. The minutes of the November 15 school board meeting indicate that Mr. Lentz abstained from voting. Why would he abstain if he didn't think he had a conflict of interest? If he had a conflict of interest, he shouldn't have even been a part of the discussion. The records of our city council meeting show that we conveyed land to the library in an open and public meeting. The school board acted in an executive, or closed, session requested by Mr. Lentz.
I want to make one thing absolutely clear: I have no quarrel with the Malden School Board. I think the school board does a wonderful job, and we have an excellent superintendent. The school board members with whom I have discussed these circumstances tell me the issue was never raised before the night Mr. Lentz appeared with the request. Those members tell me they did not know there was any other site to be considered.
I will state categorically, for the record, that Director Minton's behavior is mendacious and that Mr. Lentz's conduct is at best pusillanimous. If in the forum of their choice, they can correct the error of my thinking, I will willingly apologize to both of them. The fact is that by their behavior they have made what should be an occasion for rejoicing about receiving a new library into an unhappy squabble.
The financial report is as follows:
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From the desk of Mayor Ray Santie