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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Doug wants a do-over

Mounting public pressure has apparently caused Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer to cave in and hold off on his proposal to close four of the city’s branch libraries because of the city’s fiscal problems.

The mayor, during a press conference held Monday, said that the city’s library director and board of trustees had worked out a plan where the libraries would remain open, albeit with reduced hours and staffing.

Unfortunately for the city’s residents, who so valiantly came out against this proposal and began raising money to close the libraries’ $300,000 budget gap, there is nothing in yesterday’s public statements indicating that the city has moved to address the underlying cause of the library system’s problems.

The board of trustees, filled with Palmer-appointed cronies including the mayor’s sister and a longtime family friend, is apparently maintaining its current makeup, which resulted in the frittering away of millions of dollars and the institution of horrendous accounting and auditing practices.

While one accounting firm with longtime ties to the library system will be let go, another auditing firm will continue on to finish the most recent audit, operating under what city officials called “the more standardized and appropriate procedures generally utilized in the municipal area.”

That’s especially disturbing if it means the library will work like the city does, when it comes to finances, accounting and auditing.

In Trenton’s case, “standardized and appropriate” fiscal practices usually mean misappropriated money given to contractors without contracts.

These same practices, as implemented by the City of Trenton, have resulted in money being wasted on unnecessary perks, and the hiring of auditing firms that give “clean” audits, defined as audits that show Public Works employees are incorrectly filling out time sheets and that finance officials routinely misplace millions of dollars in grants that are never received.

Yesterday’s announcement may mean that the city’s branch libraries have received a temporary stay when it comes to potential closures, but what happened yesterday was nothing more than a political do-over, in the face of mounting public pressure.

And since Mayor Palmer and other city officials did not do anything to address to real underlying causes of the mismanagement at the libraries, these problems are sure to emerge again, in the not-so-distant future.

Thanks for your valuable help, Doug.

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