Edgartown library ends all ties to Edgartown Library Foundation

Edgartown Public Library on North Water Street. — File photo by Susan Safford

The publicly elected Edgartown Library board of trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to completely and permanently sever its relationship with the private Edgartown Library Foundation and to ask the foundation to stop raising money for the library and turn over to the town all the money it has raised so far, to support the new town library.

The library trustees also voted to establish a town account through which donations may be made to the new library building project.

“The reason we are creating this distance is so there is transparency,” newly elected library trustees chairman Deanna Ahearn-Laird said after the Tuesday meeting. “We’re asking them to cease and desist using our name, image, pictures, or telephone number for fundraising events. We can’t legally stop them. We’re asking them.”

The library trustees also expressed support for the Edgartown selectmen, who voted unanimously Monday to ask town counsel Ron Rappaport to look into the legal issues surrounding fundraising by the foundation.

“Send it to Ron and ask for an accounting of the foundation and see what he recommends,” selectman Michael Donaroma said at Monday’s meeting. Mr. Donaroma is also chairman of the library building committee. “Look up the records of where the money has gone, where it comes from. It just seems to be a lot of open-ended questions here. It may require asking the attorney general. I don’t know the legalities, if we have the right to ask them to stop using the town’s name. That’s a question I’d like to know.”

No members of the Edgartown Library Foundation attended Monday’s meeting of selectmen or Tuesday’s meeting of the library trustees.

Susan Cahoon, president of the foundation, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Selectmen and the town’s library building committee have clashed repeatedly with the library foundation over funds the town believed the foundation had raised in support of the new library but had not forwarded to the town. In June of 2012, the foundation pledged to release $175,000 for the new library project, but in recent weeks said conditions for the donations have not been met. Foundation members have expressed concern that funding is not in place that the project may cost more than anticipated.

Selectmen and the library building committee say all funding is in place for the $11 million project at the site of the old Edgartown School, including an appropriation approved by taxpayers and matching grants from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. They say the library building project is moving forward on schedule and within budget.

As a nonprofit fundraising organization, the Edgartown Library Foundation is required to file a tax return to verify that it qualifies for a tax-exempt status. In its latest filing, for the calendar year 2011, the foundation reported it held $462,809 in net assets or fund balances on December 31, 2011. In that year’s filing, the foundation reported $94,485 in gross income from fundraising events and $6,828 in contributions, gifts, and grants for the year.

The foundation also reported $53,702 in direct expenses from fundraising events and $22,140 paid to independent contractors.

After subtracting expenses, the foundation reported $25,449 in net income for 2011.