Library great place to work; but accountability lacking

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

Earlier this week, we observed Labor Day, which pays tribute to the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of this great country.

But as we all know, some places are better to work at than others. The St. Louis County Library is a great place to work, as evidenced by its recognition by a daily newspaper as a top workplace in 2012, 2014 and 2015. Top workplaces are recognized solely on surveys about the entity completed by its employees.

Obviously, it’s good to work at the library, as the appointed Board of Trustees is very generous with the taxpayers’ money it receives. The board apparently is more than happy to spend that tax revenue on excellent salaries and bountiful insurance and pension benefits for employees.

And if you’re Library Director Kristen Sorth, who resides in the city of St. Louis, life is great working for the county library. Besides an excellent working environment, the job pays very well — at least $145,000 — more than County Executive Steve Stenger and Gov. Jay Nixon make.

Then there’s the perks. To help Sorth get around town, the library board earlier this year voted unanimously to approve the purchase of a $32,246 2015 Ford Edge SUV for her. We can only conclude that library trustees believe it would be difficult for Sorth to make car payments on her paltry salary — like just about every other library employee.

Quite frankly, we can’t really blame Sorth for taking taxpayers for a ride.

But we can blame the board — President Lynn Beckwith, Vice President Edith Cunnane, Secretary Chingling Tai, Treasurer Elena Garcia Kenyon and member Stephen Sachs — not that it will do much good. The entire board was appointed by former County Executive Charlie Dooley, who didn’t seem to care whether the board was responsive to the public, even when it gave south county residents the shaft by giving them no say whatsoever on the relocation of the Tesson Ferry Branch Library.

Stenger, who was elected county executive last November, told the Call earlier this year that one of his priorities was making changes to the library board to make it more responsive to the public. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet, even though all the trustees’ terms have expired.

In the meantime, the library board continues to put the pedal to the metal in spending taxpayer dollars with no accountability whatsoever.