Audit clears ex-director of Basalt library | AspenTimes.com

Audit clears ex-director of Basalt library

BASALT – An audit of the Basalt Regional Library District’s financial statements from 2011 shows “no indication of malfeasance or fraud” on the part of former library director Kristen Becker, according to the treasurer of the library’s board of trustees.

Treasurer Bernie Grauer told the other board members at a recent meeting that the independent auditor’s report was “good news” because it indicated there was no misappropriation of taxpayers’ dollars.

The library district hired a firm it hasn’t used for its annual audit. Blair and Associates, of Cedaredge, was selected to go over the books.

A prior library board had earlier hired a Denver accounting firm to review credit-card expenditures and other expenses for 2010 and 2011, when the library was run by Becker. That investigation, completed in March, showed Becker did a lousy job of providing documentation for the expenses. However, it was inconclusive on the propriety of Becker’s spending.

The library board ordered the examination of Becker’s charges and expenses under pressure from a group of Basalt residents who pursued the director’s ouster. The group questioned Becker’s handling of library finances and spending. Some of the critics, including Grauer, ended up getting appointed as library trustees in February in a shake-up of the board. New members were appointed to four of seven positions.

Grauer was one of Becker’s sharpest critics when he was acting as a watchdog of the library board. He said this week that he was satisfied that Becker’s spending was thoroughly examined via the audit.

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“As far as I’m concerned as treasurer, that puts that issue to bed,” he said.

Board President Judy Royer also said the audit ends the issue.

Becker declined to accept an employment package offered to her for 2012, and she moved to Kansas. A letter from her attorney to the trustees on Dec. 15 said she considered herself terminated because of changes to her employment contract from 2011 to 2012. Her housing allowance and benefits were reduced. Her $105,000 salary was left intact.

Becker demanded a severance package of $26,232.40. The trustees declined to pay the package.

Becker, reached via email, released the following statement about the audit: “I am pleased the library conducted a thorough investigation into its finances and that the independent auditors confirmed what I have known for months, that under my leadership the library’s financial outlook improved by more than $800,000 between Dec. 31, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2011, and no evidence of fraud or malfeasance was found.”

Becker’s position hasn’t been filled yet. Barbara Milnor, a longtime Basalt librarian, is serving as interim executive director. The board anticipates hiring a new director in 2013, according to Grauer.

scondon@aspentimes.com