Unity Free Library accumulates $ 56,000 in legal fees | News


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UNITY – The Unity Free Library has so far incurred more than $ 56,000 in legal and accounting services fees since September, far exceeding its operating budget of $ 41,556.

An ex parte motion filed in Sullivan County Superior Court on Thursday asks the court to order the immediate dismissal of library administrator Sally Teague for making a number of payments from library accounts without authorization or consultation with the other administrators.

The new motion is part of a larger complaint filed by Deborah Leahy, a former library administrator, and Carolyn Kapchensky, the former library assistant, to order the reopening of the Unity Free Library, which has been officially closed since the 15th. July without confirmed reopening. date or plan.

In July, the Unity Selectboard, along with a majority of the Unity Free Library board, took control of the city library’s operations after months of questions about the library’s management under the former president of the library. board of directors and treasurer Gordon Brann.

In addition to replacing Brann as president the previous month, the two councils closed the library until the completion of a forensic audit of the library, transferred oversight of the library’s treasury to the city, and transferred the $ 52,081.78 of total library funds to a new bank.

In September, library administrators Teague and Jedidiah Stopyro filed a lawsuit against their colleague, Brann, alleging that he was withholding the necessary financial documents from governing bodies to complete the forensic audit and complete the right to claim application. know.

Those legal fees have so far cost more than $ 37,000, according to the draft minutes of the Unity Free Library board of directors on Tuesday, December 14.

The minutes also state that Teague allegedly paid more than $ 42,000 in bills from library accounts. These payments include $ 27,902.79 in legal fees to Upton & Hatfield, a Concord-based law firm, and $ 14,742.50 to Graham & Veroff, an accounting firm based in Springfield, Vt, which is completing the audit. forensic.

Meanwhile, the library still has two overdue bills – one from Upton & Hatfield for $ 4,500 and one from Graham & Veroff for $ 9,500.

“At no time before approving these expenses has Sally Teague met with the board of directors,” said Melanie Bell, lawyer for Leahy and Kapchenski. “In fact, at the [Dec.14] meeting with the other two trustees objected to the audit expense.

According to the meeting minutes, Brann noted that Unity Selectboard ordered the audit and therefore the city should be responsible for the cost.

The new motion also alleges that Teague embezzled funds by paying more than $ 26,000 in legal fees from a library account designated for employee salaries.

“A review of the expenditure working papers shows that [Teague] presented at the December 14 Trustees meeting that she had simply added “legal” as a budget allocation without seeking the appropriate approvals [under state law]Bell says in the ex parte petition.

According to the minutes of the meeting, Teague claimed that she “had been informed that the library had to pay these bills”, although when asked for more, Teague “could not remember who told her this. “.

Attorney Michael Courtney, representing Teague, has asked Sullivan County Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker for 20 days to file an objection to the ex parte motion.

Library administrators are working to schedule a joint meeting with the Unity Selectboard next week, tentatively on Tuesday, December 21, to discuss the library’s bank accounts and the financial activity that has occurred since the closure of the library. the library.

At the heart of the ongoing dispute are the library’s total funds, which stood at $ 52,081.78 when the selection committee and trustees closed the library in July.

The jury first took issue with Brann’s financial management after Brann admitted that a portion of those funds came from unspent money from the town’s annual library budget. By law, unspent budgets are supposed to revert to taxpayers at the end of the fiscal year, unless approved by voters.

However, it is not yet determined how much of the library’s total funds are public money as opposed to private donations, library revenues, or other sources.

At a hearing on Friday, Bell admitted that Brann made a mistake in keeping unspent budget money in library funds, but denied that Brann ever mis-spent the accounts money.

Brann also signed an affidavit stating that he turned over all records in his possession to the auditor.

“It all started because there was too much money for the library,” Bell told Tucker. “Suddenly they are running out of money for the library because, unilaterally, Mrs Teague is writing checks to pay [attorneys] and for this audit.

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