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Arches at heart of library dispute?

January 27, 2000

Noaki Schwartz

NEWPORT BEACH -- Library foundation members are now saying they know what

is at the heart of their impending divorce with the library's board of

trustees -- a difference in vision over the very institution that brought

them together.

Foundation member Don Adkinson said the problems with the trustees first

started when the nonprofit entity refused to support the board's plans to

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build $200,000 arches in front of the library.

But trustee chair Jim Wood -- leading the effort to make the library more

visible -- and the other trustees say the accusation is ludicrous. They

maintain the problems are simply that the board wants responsible

financial reporting and that the foundation is refusing to comply.

"It was like pulling teeth for a year just to get clear financial

reporting," said trustee Patrick Bartolic. "The foundation should be

asking donors what they want done with the money. We could care less

about controlling the foundation's money."

This latest effort to explain the puzzling dispute just adds another

perspective, leaving the community scratching its head and wondering

precisely why this is happening.

The situation culminated this month when the board demanded that the

foundation move out of its library office and leave its $1.5-million

endowment fund to the library.

The fight eventually landed in the Newport Beach City Council's lap

Tuesday. Despite insistence that it had no jurisdiction over the two

groups, the council offered the foundation a temporary office at City

Hall. And despite offers for professionally facilitated meetings,

Bartolic said the trustees had spent enough time on meetings.

"This kind of conflict when Ben Jackson was chair did not exist. It's

only occurred in the last couple of years with a shift in the chair,"

said former trustee and foundation member Frank Lynch, adding that the

council did have the power to appoint the trustees.

The relationship between the two bodies, though independent, is

symbiotic. While the foundation raises money, it's the trustees who

decide how it's spent. And while the foundation wants to keep a majority

of its savings for an endowment fund, the trustees would prefer to have

the money available for more immediate uses.

The 6-year-old foundation annually donates 2.7% of the library's budget.

However, despite the small percentage, those funds are used for some of

the library's most popular programs, which help make it one of the best

in the nation.

The issue over the arches surfaced more than a year ago, when the

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