Saturday, May 24, 2008

Edward Szynaka - Peoria Public Library Director

This information was taken from the blog sites of the Peoria Pundit "History shows library expansion needs strict oversight" June 26, 2007, and the Peoria Chronicle "Shenanigans at the Peoria Library Board", June 25, 2007.

"Leading the charge for the passage of the advisory referendum (cost of the referendum, $100,000 dollars, $20,000 from the Caterpillar Foundation), was Mr. Szynaka who was appointed to the post in August 2006. Mr. Szynaka had been fired from his previous job. (Prior to that he had a management position in a Library system in Pasadena, California.) Voters might have like to have known about Mr. Szynaka's record from Indiana where he was in charge (in the beginning, at least) of a similar expansion project for the Marion County Library in Indianapolis. One of the first things he started work on here in Peoria was getting money to expand the library facilities, considered by many--especially the Peoria Journal Star--to be inadequate.

When asked, Peoria library board members said that they were aware of Szynaka's history, but considered it to just a case of politics being played by Republicans on the library board (Szynaka apparently is a Democrat). It seems to be a bit more complicated than that, and it doesn't explain other questions.

On it's Website, the Indianapolis Star still runs (ran) a multi-part series detailing how a modest renovation and parking project mushroomed into a $100,000,000.00 project that is still being plagued with cost overruns and questionable spending, including more than $60,000 on Szynaka's credit card that were never explained. Most of the libraries snafus are generally blamed on the contractors and other personnel hired by the board while Szynaka was still CEO.

From the Website of the Indiania Attorney General's office; "Nearly $60,000 has been returned to the Indianapolis/Marion County Public Library's operating budget since a state audit revealed misappropriated public funds. A final check of $22,446.00 has been received to cover the audit charges against former Chief Executive Office Ed Szynaka for questionable purchases and charges on the Library credit card.

We have worked with all parties involved to recover the thousands of dollars inappropriately depleted from the public library's operating budget without the added expenditure of litigation for taxpayer, Attorney General Carter said."

A State Board of Accounts revealed $21,372 in unallowable credit card charges paid from the library's operating budget. Former CEO Ed Szynaka was charged individually with making inappropriate charges of $23,766.00. The SBOA also charged the library for audit costs and referred the case to the attorney generals office for collection."

The Peoria Pundit continues "If there are library employees here in Peoria who are upset at Mr. Szynaka's management style, they are well-advised to keep their opinions to themselves. Back in Indiana, Szynaka was able to talk his board into firing a long-time library employee because she was critical of the the changes made there similar to the changes he wants to make here in Peoria. Minutes of that library board meeting are available in PDF format."

I have written many blogs related to this $35 million dollar property taxes funded drive and have questioned the whys of the need of 30,000 square feet of new space on the North side where I live. I have the availability of the Peoria Heights underutilized Library, the busy but not overcrowded Lakeview Library; I have visited Lakeview approximately 100 times in the last 52 weeks, and had the self check out machines been working, I would never had to stand in line more than a couple of minutes. The claim is that Lakeview is overcrowded yet the library has over 1000 linear feet of unused shelves. Stacks could be taken down to accommodate more computers.

Library users who live north and west of me (Edgewild) have the use of the large Dunlap Library. Many of the residents of the North side send their kids to Dunlap schools and the growth has resulted in new schools all of which have libraries. (All schools have libraries).

All libraries within 25 miles of Peoria accept Peoria Public Library cards at no charge. You can return any item checked out of any local library at any of these area libraries.

All library people I have ever asked for help are courteous and most could use more help and more pay.

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