IUOE Local 39 Sacramento Shop Steward Exposed Financial Irregularities and Corruption
Strife, strides at library
Director reflects on growth, scandal, conflict
By Christina Jewett - firstname.lastname@example.org
Published Tuesday, December 4, 2007
THIS YEAR HAS BEEN everything but quiet for Sacramento Public Library Director Anne Marie Gold.
She's weathered a no-confidence petition by her staff and is dealing with a billing scandal that cost the library hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Whether the scandal damages Gold remains to be seen; a county grand jury is probing library billing and other administrative practices. The FBI and Sacramento County District Attorney's Office are investigating.
In her first substantive interview about the controversies, Gold acknowledged that she focuses more on progress than on listening to every opposing viewpoint. She said she is evolving as a leader.
"Yes, I'm a different leader than I was ... six years ago when I arrived, and I'm probably different than I was six months ago," Gold said. "If I wasn't, it means I stopped listening and I stopped learning. And I don't do that."
Gold's supporters say problems can strike any organization. But critics say Gold compounds problems by brushing off staff concerns until they reach a boiling point.
Six years into her management of the 27-branch library system, Gold, 58, draws an annual salary of $145,000. She oversees a staff of about 340 and a $36 million annual budget.
Under her stewardship, public libraries in Sacramento County expanded their hours. Circulation of books, DVDs, magazines and CDs soared from 322,771 in September of 2001 to 538,308 this September. The Carmichael library was remodeled and the North Natomas Library opened. New libraries are planned for the Pocket, Valley Hi and Elk Grove.
Gold envisions libraries with a diversity of patrons, and space for coffee and conversation.
"Truly doing what our communities want," she said, "I think that's a key responsibility in setting direction for the library."
Gold, an intense woman with short brown hair and crystal blue eyes, relaxes when she talks about her lifelong love: libraries.
"I have been exceedingly lucky to make my passion my profession," she said.
Gold answers to a 14-member board composed of county supervisors and city council members.
County Supervisor Roger Dickinson and City Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell recently voiced support for Gold.
"I think those people have it in for her because they don't want change," Pannell said of Gold's critics.
Sacramento City Councilman Robbie Waters, however, said he won't judge until he learns more about the alleged overbilling.
"There will be fault," Waters said. "Where it's going to go, I don't know."
The Bee chronicled allegations that Hagginwood Services overcharged the library for routine maintenance work, at times tripling bills, and was co-managed by the library's security director.
The library commissioned a San Francisco law firm to complete an investigative report, released in September, that concluded Hagginwood Services overbilled by at least $650,000.
In June, Gold decried the alleged overbilling, placed the maintenance director on leave and severed the library's three-year relationship with Hagginwood. Gold has said Hagginwood's actions were "not OK" and vowed to recover taxpayer money. Gold has hired a $150-an-hour consultant, with library funds, to deal with media interest in the scandal. The library is also suing Hagginwood.
One library staffer suggests Gold could have acted sooner.
Diane Boerman is credited in the investigative report with alerting officials to billing irregularities. Boerman is a clerk in the finance department and shop steward for Stationary Engineers Union Local 39, which represents about 300 library staffers.
Boerman said she first tried to tell Gold about her concerns with the company's billing in November 2005. Boerman said she met with Gold in her office on an unrelated union matter, but began to describe problems in the finance department.
"She said she didn't want to hear it," Boerman said.
Gold said she doesn't recall details of that meeting. She said she didn't hear about billing problems until months later, after Boerman and her union complained to other library officials that Hagginwood was owned by an employee's wife, had no contracting license and no written work contract.
Gold said that when she learned about the irregularities, she found them troubling.
Later that year, library officials went out to bid for maintenance contractors and chose to work with Hagginwood, despite its lack of contracting credentials.
Gold severed ties with the firm this summer when Hagginwood subcontractors' invoices surfaced, showing apparent, unjustified inflation of bills.
She said she takes responsibility for the missteps.
"I firmly believe that the role of the leader in an organization, whether you are directly involved in a situation or not, is you accept responsibility and you solve the problem, and that's exactly what I'm doing," she said.
Gold was named Sacramento Library director in 2001, arriving with 30 years of experience. She had run Contra Costa County's libraries and managed the California State Library, which provides research support to government.
"I knew she was going to make change, which the library needed," Pannell said.
Mary Ellen Shay, former director of the library's foundation, said Gold has increased tutoring for children, outreach to teens and Internet access.
"The library is the great equalizer it gives everybody a chance at a better life," Shay said. "I think (Gold) really sees that and I think that's what she's tried to do, too."
Phil Batchelor, retired Contra Costa County administrator, said Gold took the helm of that county's libraries just after staffers cast a no-confidence vote in management. Gold listened to librarians' concerns and lifted morale, Batchelor said.
But the kind of unrest Gold quelled in the Bay Area has haunted her in Sacramento.
Steve Crouch, a business representative for Stationary Engineers Union Local 39, said quarterly meetings between the union and Gold broke down in 2005.
Crouch said Gold failed to answer librarians' concerns, missed some meetings and appeared distant during others.
A cadre of librarians then presented Gold with a list of concerns about low staffing, vacation disputes and low pay. He said administrators boosted pay rates and filled vacancies, relieving some tension.
Last May, Terry Chekon, a librarian who retired in 2003, became active in an effort to assemble a no-confidence petition against Gold, which eventually included about 600 names of staffers and library patrons.
Chekon said Gold's actions like moving duties of choosing books from librarians to administrators hurt morale. She said Gold appeared to favor younger librarians and discount the concerns of veteran staffers.
Chekon and others also decried a move toward stocking more popular items such as 30 copies of the film "Jackass 2" at the expense of a research collection rich with tomes not usually found in bookstores.
Library data reflect the trend: from 2004 to 2005 the library bought 10 percent fewer individual titles, "reflecting the library's continued commitment to purchase more copies of popular titles," according to a 2005 library report.
Gold responds to questions about staff complaints by describing three levels of individual comfort with change. Some staffers are ahead of her, she said, some are alongside and others resist.
"I think the challenge is meeting the needs of all three groups ... leading for all three groups," Gold said. "And that means you have to lead differently and you have to communicate differently."
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