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Election Adds Fuel to Library Dispute

Dana Point volunteer group's old board steps aside but won't turn over its funds to the new one. No purchases have been made for six weeks.

June 17, 2003|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

A new board has been elected, but that hasn't put an end to the bickering between factions of the Friends of the Dana Point Library.

About all the two sides agree on is that the Friends have about $82,000 in an account at Charles Schwab Corp. But the old board refuses to turn it over to the new board. And William Shepherd, president of the old board, says his nine-member group doesn't recognize the May election that ousted it.

Not that it thinks it should still be in power, though. In a June 11 letter to Friends members, Shepherd wrote that his board was stepping aside "to end the rift between friends and neighbors and open the opportunity for healing."

But there's still the problem of the money. Library officials say a summer reading program for children may have trouble paying its bills and that the library hasn't bought new books or other materials for six weeks.

The all-volunteer Friends raises money for the library, mostly through its used-book store. Some Friends accused the old board of spending money on newsletters, parties and other community organizations instead of the library. Shepherd and others deny those allegations.

A new board was elected in a May 28 election. Far from ending the fighting, it only fueled it.

Ingrid McGuire, the new Friends president, sent a letter to Bruce Richter, treasurer of the old board, asking him to turn over the bank account. "It is somewhat incongruous to resign and on the other hand not to turn over the funds," she said.

Instead, Shepherd delivered bank account records to the county executive officer's office Thursday.

Shepherd said the new board is not valid and that he can't turn over the records to just anyone. "We don't have any proof they're the board," he said.

Shepherd said he doesn't trust Orange County Librarian John Adams, saying Adams was biased toward the opposing Friends faction. So, Shepherd said, he decided to give the records to Adams' boss, the county executive officer.

Although the library is part of the county system, the Friends is an independent group, which means the county has nothing to do with it.

"We are not the proper recipient of any of their documents or records," said Diane Thomas, the county spokeswoman.

So is the county sending everything back? And to whom? "I don't know where the delivery is at the moment, but the bottom line is: We're not the appropriate ones to get them," Thomas said.

Which brings the circle back to the summer reading program. The 2,000 kids expected to take part range in age from high school seniors to those so young they must be read to. Children's librarian Carolyn Hopkins said the local chapter of the National Charity League has donated $2,000 to pay for the jugglers, magicians and animal acts who entertain weekly.

Soon, the pins and bookmarks children earn for reading should arrive. Hopkins will then have 30 days to pay that $2,000.

She is hoping the issue will get resolved. "I've never encountered anything like this in my life," she said.

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