FBI raids Detroit Public Library over finances

© diego cervo - Fotolia.com

© diego cervo - Fotolia.com

DETROIT – FBI agents executed a raid on the Detroit Public Library’s main branch shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday morning. The agents executed multiple search warrants and were looking for the Library’s financial records.

FBI spokesman Simon Shaykhet and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing both declined comment. The raid lasted three hours and the agents left after 11 a.m. carrying cardboard boxes and computer equipment.

Federal agents focused their search on Tim Cromer, the Library’s chief administrative officer, who has been the focus of controversies over misspending. The FBI also raided Cromer’s house on Tuesday.

The library, like many Detroit agencies in recent years, has dealt with alleged misspending, questionable hiring practices, nepotism, and misappropriation of funds as is has struggled with a $10 million budget deficit. Last year, the library system closed two of its 23 branches in the city and cut its staff by 20 percent.

The closings came as the main branch underwent a massive upgrade. Most notably, the south wing of the Main Branch has 20 orange European lounge chairs that cost an estimated $1,100 each along. The upgrade eventually became a $2.3 million project – $300,000 was spent on furniture alone – that included new floors, study rooms, lighting and bookshelves.

“$1,100 per chair is reckless spending for a public institution,” said Todd Kelly, president of AFSCME Local 1259, the union which represents 125 library workers, including clerks, janitors and security staffers.

Library director JoAnn Mondowney was placed on administrative leave in May but later returned to work without a contract – as did Cromer. Other library officials have requested an internal probe to find out if certain renovations were done without the proper bidding process.

Kelly called Tuesday’s raid a “sad day” for the library. He added: “The workers, we have our act together. It’s the others that have to catch up — the administration. Mishap and confusion usually comes from upstairs.”

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