ATLANTA, IL. (ECWd) -
During the Budget and Appropriations Hearing, the Atlanta Public Library District Board of Trustees was grilled over their attempts at "cooking the books" of the Grill Café restaurant by trying to push it off as an entity somewhat not affiliated with the Library, and not subject to the Library's Budget and Appropriations Ordinance.
To start with, the Budget and Appropriations Ordinance passed by the board this past week is not a complete product and effectively prohibits the board from paying wages, bills, purchasing food and supplies, or expending funds in any other way on behalf of the Grill Café it owns. It was not in the budget and there was no appropriations made for those expenditures.
Throughout my comments during the hearing, the library insisted that the Café need not be listed in the Ordinance because it was some sort of "special" function that only spent funds it received in its operations. Library said the Ordinance was only for the "tax money" it received and for nothing else. They are wrong.
I continued my line of questioning thinking they were just temporarily confused, but it turns out they really have no intention of placing the Café operations in the Ordinance.
The Public Library District Act says the library shall enact a combined Budget and Appropriations Ordinance pursuant to the provisions of the Illinois Municipal Budget Law.
The Illinois Municipal Budget Law specifically states they must estimate the amount of funds expected to be received during such fiscal year from all sources. Please note is does not mention it only applies to tax funds. We presume that "all sources" means just that; funds received from each and every source that the library receives funds from.
This might be the confusing part, since there was an attempt at claiming the library was not receiving or expending any funds received or expended by the Café. If that is the case, they are completely wrong. Since the library operates the Café, all funds received and expended thru the Café are public funds and subject to the combined Budget and Appropriations Ordinance.
If there is no Café listed in the Budget, and no appropriations made for expenditures of the Café, the library must immediately shutter the Café, lay off its workers, and refrain from purchasing any more food and/or supplies because it has no authority to expend any funds not budgeted or appropriated.
We understand this Café is another one of Bill Thomas' pet projects, and from all appearances, is just as screwed up as the other ones we have looked at. Trustee Bill Thomas is the board's Treasurer and most likely had a hand in drafting this incomplete Ordinance. He is also the secretary/treasurer of the Atlanta Economic Development Commission, and it makes us wonder if their books are as screwed up as this library's books.
At the 55 second mark and lasting thru to about the 6:30 mark in the hearing video, you can see one of the library directors, who happens to be related to Bill Thomas, start out in a confused state about exactly what this library's ordinance should contain. The hearing ended with the same confusion throughout the entire hearing.
In the regular meeting, after the hearing, I asked the board why they would approve an Ordinance knowing it was wrong. No real answer was offered by the board.
**Article title came from a comment posted in previous article**