CLIFTON - A Kane In Your Corner investigation has found additional irregularities in the budget of the Clifton Public Library and is raising questions about the explanation provided by city hall.
Last month, Kane In Your Corner examined how the library was paying the salaries of two people who don't work there, the director of the city's arts council and the curator of the Hamilton House museum, at a time when the library itself was reducing hours because of budget cuts.
At the time, Mayor James Anzaldi, defended the deal, saying, "It was a unanimous vote of the council, a unanimous vote of the library board." But the Clifton City Clerk's office now says there is no record of any vote, or even a resolution on the matter. Confronted with the inconsistency, Anzaldi told News 12 New Jersey's Walt Kane that the so-called vote actually happened behind closed doors during a discussion about layoffs and was really "more of a suggestion".
In addition, public records obtained by Kane in Your Corner raise new questions about the library budget. The budget shows the city skims more than $200,000 a year from the library, including $83,000 a year for a building "use allowance." State law forbids municipalities from charging libraries rent. Anzaldi says the use allowance covers things like insurance. However, public records show the use allowance is, in fact, payment by the library to the city for use of the building; although records say the library is reimbursing Clifton for "depreciation" rather than paying rent.
At least one city councilwoman, Mary Sadrakula, believes the city is breaking the rules. "You know, you can call it whatever you want to call it," she says. "But let's call it what it is. It's rent."
Even if it is violating state code, the City of Clifton is unlikely to face serious consequences. The state librarian could withhold funding, but that's less than $40,000 a year, far less than the city takes from the library. In addition, if the state did withhold funding, the funding would be taken from the library, not City Hall. That has some library supporters concerned that there's no real incentive for municipalities to follow the rules.