Diane Duquette, director of Kern County libraries, came under fire this month in the Bakersfield media for an item in the bi-annual department audit of full library operations. One note stated there was inadequate documentation for mileage over two years of about 57,000 miles.[Hedlund photo for The Mountain Enterprise]
By Patric Hedlund
Disclaimer: This report must start with a disclaimer, one that almost anyone in the Mountain Communities would have to write. Most of us know Diane Duquette. She is a friend and neighbor who seems to show up at every community event. Hers was the widest smile behind the ribbon cutting to open the new library in Frazier Park last month—a 15 year project.
Diane Duquette is the hyperactive, whip-smart blur in the sky blue jacket who every month drives thousands of miles to monitor 26 libraries scattered across Kern County. That is an expanse of 8,132 square miles— an area nearly the size of New Jersey.
Duquette was hired 24 years ago to serve as the director of the Kern County Public Libraries. Her husband has a liver transplant and respiratory ailments, so they live at 6,000 feet in the Pine Mountain community where he can breathe clean air. As a hiring incentive, the county gave her a car to drive. Commuting just to the Beale Memorial Library headquarters in Bakersfield is a 120-mile round trip. She is often driving through the snow, so she has an SUV.
All other current department heads now receive an alternative option rather than a county car. They are given a $599 per month stipend for using their own vehicle, plus 29 cents per mile in mileage reimbursement from the county.
It is being widely reported in Bakersfield that Duquette is “being investigated” for use of her county car for personal use.
The Mountain Enterprise requested and received from the county’s administrative offices the audit and the reply to the audit by Duquette as department head.
This is not a special investigation, it is the routine biannual audit of the department’s full operations for fiscal years ending June 30, 2009 and 2010. It is signed by Ann K. Barnett, Auditor- Controller-County Clerk. It is dated October 4, 2011.
The report is comprehensive, looking at all sectors of fiscal operation of the 26 libraries and two bookmobiles in the system.
One finding is that the library system came in $568,940 under budget in 2009 and (after the libraries—with most other county departments—had deep budget cuts due to the recession) Duquette still brought the 2010 expenditures in $271,081 under budget. This indicates the library could have returned $840,021 to the county general fund over this two year period.
In the audit’s section about vehicle use, it states: “The department is out of compliance with County Ordinance 2.78.050 with regard to the usage of a county vehicle and fuel card. There was inadequate documentation to support the 26,779 and 30,665 miles driven on one vehicle in calendar years 2009 and 2010 and the breakdown of business, commuting and personal miles.
The auditor recommended that the department comply with the ordinance and accurately track business and commuting miles.
Duquette, as department head, replied that “The Department concurs that it is technically out of compliance with the…code using the broadest interpretation of that section. However, the department denies any intentional inaccuracy in its past reporting of business and/ or personal mileage.”
She goes on to say that “all future reporting will comply with state and federal regulations applicable to public agencies.”
Calls to Duquette’s home, cell phone and office were not being answered early this week.
The Board of Supervisors held a performance evaluation with Duquette in closed session on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 11:30 a.m. They made no report after the session, indicating, according to Kern County Administrative Officer John Nilon, that “no reportable action was taken.” Under the Brown Act, hiring, dismissal or some other major action that affects the employment contract of the employee are reportable. Suspensions or other less-than-terminal discipline are not required to be reported.
If reimbursement to the county were to be required at the highest possible rate of .555 cents per mile, for the full number of miles mentioned as under-documented in the audit report—adding both 2009 and 2010 together—that could amount to a cumulative $31,881. We have no indication that is being required.
If Duquette had opted for the $599 a month stipend plus gas reimbursement for use of her own car for that same number of miles on library business, she would have been eligible for $14,376 in stipends over two years, plus $16,659 in gas reimbursements, a total of $31,035.
This is part of the November 18, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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