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2013 Year in Review: California Public Libraries

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Andy Furillo reported in The Sacramento Bee on Friday, November 15, 2013 that Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen H. Sumner had “approved a restitution payment of $480,000 to the Sacramento Public Library Authority out of assets seized from three people convicted in a fraud case two years ago.” Most of the money came from the home of former Facilities Director Dennis Nilsson, who was convicted in a kickback scam.

On January 27, 2012, Nilsson received a sentence of fifteen years and eight months. The Sacramento Public Library Authority estimates the SPL lost $825,000 through a fraudulent billing scheme The Sacramento Bee brought to light a few years ago.

“The bulk of the rest of the assets are currently tied up in a house owned by the two other defendants, James Mayle and his wife, Janie Ranks-Mayle.” Furillo explained. Unfortunately for the SPL, “Deputy District Attorney Michael Blazina said the loan on the Mayles’ house exceeds its current value.”

On Wednesday, December 4, 2013, Ian Chant reported in a Library Journal article, “In late 2011… Nilsson, who oversaw payments made to contractors for construction and renovation work at libraries throughout the system, and James Mayle, who ran security for the branches, were convicted—along with Mayle’s wife, Janie Rankins-Mayle—of defrauding SPL out of nearly $825,000 in phony maintenance charges. Mayle and his wife ran a shell company that drastically inflated the prices of typical handyman work performed in Sacramento’s libraries.”

Over four years, contractors submitted invoices to the shell corporation for $560,000 worth of work, according to The Modesto Bee. The fraudsters, in turn, submitted more than $1.3 million in bills to the library via Nilsson, who approved the charges while the trio pocketed the difference, spending the proceeds on items like cars, home improvements, and resort vacations. In December 2011, all three were convicted on charges of grand theft and bribery. Mayle was also convicted on conflict of interest charges. All three are currently serving jail sentences ranging from four to fourteen years.

While the convictions were a victory for SPL, they didn’t do anything to fill the gaping hole the thefts left in the organization’s coffers. The financial loss, discovered in 2008, came at a particularly tough time for SPL, as the economy was suffering through the worst of the financial collapse…

Library Director Rivkah Sass, who joined the SPL in 2009, told Chant, “You want to get support from your constituents and foundation in tough financial times,” said Sass. “When something like this occurs, it impacts faith in the library as an institution, so you have a higher mountain to climb when it comes to private support.”

***

Jason Green reported in the San Jose Mercury News on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 that on November 7th Palo Alto Public Works Director Michael Sartor had sent a five-page letter to Tom Maxwell, President & CEO of Flintco Pacific Inc., the general contractor, complaining the construction of the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center had fallen behind schedule. Sartor identified two problems.

First, the workmanship did not meet expectations in some respects. The fire-alarm system had failed tests three times. The roof also had two leaks.

Second, the pace of construction had slowed because the number of workers on site had fallen from fifteen or sixteen a day to five, most of whom did not remain on the premises for an entire shift. In his letter, Sartor stated, "There are many areas that Flintco and its subcontractors could be working on, but Flintco appears either unable or unwilling to commit an adequate amount of personnel to complete the project any time soon."

Sartor also had questions that arose from an apparent reorganization of the company. Construction workers had begun to refer to their employer as Flint Builders, Inc. Green pointed out, “According to Flint Builders' website, the firm was established this year when Flintco transferred its Pacific division to Vice President John Stump.”

The $28,000,000 facility was 96% complete as of mid-November. Green explicated, “At 56,000 square feet, the new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center is the city's largest construction project in four decades and the centerpiece of a $76 million overhaul of the library system. The funding was made possible by the passage of Measure N in 2008.”

***

Oprah Winfrey has named Sue Monk Kidd’s forthcoming book The Invention of Wings, which will be released on January 7, 2014. An interview with Ms. Kidd will appear in the issue of O: The Oprah Magazine dated tomorrow (Tuesday, December 17, 2013).

Ms. Winfrey started her original book club in 1996 and suspended it in 2011 when she ended her famous syndicated talk show. Whether she encouraged viewers to read an old book like John Steinbeck’s East of Eden or a debut novel like Lalita Tademy's Cane River, publishers noted significant increase in sales, as Hillel Italie noted in an Associated Press article.

In 2012, Ms. Winfrey re-launched her book club as Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Keeping up with the times, it has a greater emphasis on eBooks.

The Invention of Wings is only the third book to be picked for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Ms. Winfrey selected the second book, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis about a year ago.

***

The Mob Museum in Las Vegas is seeking a Director of Content Development.

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