A financial audit of the Enoch Pratt Free Library found that sloppy bookkeeping and poor oversight have resulted in balance questions, negative accounts and late reimbursements to city coffers.
After a presentation before the city's spending panel Wednesday, Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young asked library officials to return in 90 days to discuss their plan to correct the accounting troubles.
Young said while he is a "big supporter of the library system," he is concerned, especially since some of the problems have continued for several years.
The library is looking to hire a senior accountant to reconcile its books and expects to repay the city at least $1.2 million by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
"We are working with the city to clearly improve all of our bookkeeping," said Roswell Encina, director of communications for the library. "The bottom line is, no taxpayers' dollars or library donors' money is unaccounted for."
A report by the city auditor, Robert L. McCarty Jr., for the 2013 fiscal year found that the library did not have a sufficient number of adequately trained accountants on staff, a problem first identified in 2011.
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McCarty warned that current practices don't guarantee that a major mistake would be "prevented, or detected and corrected on a timely basis."
The library owes the city at least $1.2 million. The city covered some expenses on behalf of the library, for which the library receives state grant dollars. Because of cash-flow issues, the library was late in reimbursing the city $3.7 million last year.
The library also did not provide enough documentation in accounting records to show whether expenditures were authorized by management or charged to the correct account, according to the audit. The review recommended that the library adopt new policies and procedures for managers to routinely review work performed by subordinate staff on at least a monthly basis.
"We're striving to work on all of this," Encina said. "This raises some red flags, and it should."