Thursday, March 11, 2010

In Defense of Dionne Mack-Harvin; The Brooklyn Public Library Director's Resignation May Be for Laudable Reasons

Dionne Mack-Harvin is resigning as the director of the Brooklyn Public Library.  The media is all aflutter with speculation that she is resigning due to a gaffe that occurred last August.  But there may be another reason, and a laudable one at that.   She may not want to be a part of what may be a continuing conspiracy to commit fraud.

Media Reports Claim Old Flap as Reason for Resignation

These media reports claim the reason for the director's resignation is related to a matter from August 2009:

As I read those stories, I see no direct evidence that the August 2009 kerfuffle is the reason for the resignation.  Indeed, "Mack-Harvin insists that her resignation was a personal decision that had nothing to do with the downsizing scandal...."

Might there be something more recent that caused the director to jump?

Recent Criticism of the BPL and a Call for Production of Exculpatory Documents

Recently, I have disclosed what may be fraud perpetrated by the Brooklyn Public Library.  I called on the director to speak with me publicly and to produce copies of certifications filed with the federal government that would prove or disprove possible fraud. Please see:

Letter from the Brooklyn Borough President

In response to these blog posts and emails based thereon, I have received from the Brooklyn Borough President the following response:

On Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 5:55 PM, [name, email elided] wrote:

To Mr. Kleinman:

The Borough President’s Office has received your issue concerning viewing pornography in Brooklyn Public Library.  In response to your concerns we have contacted the BPL and they have stated that they filter their computers, providing adults the choice to conduct their computer session filtered or unfiltered and children’s computers are automatically filtered.  Further, privacy screens are available for all customers and though the libraries are public spaces library staff is trained to manage customer services issues as they occur.  The BPL states that they ensure that children’s areas are separate from adult areas, and if a customer is viewing controversial material, that the customer use a privacy screen or move to a more secluded location.  Also, the BPL states that an independent audit, conducted two years ago by the international accounting firm KPMG on behalf of the Universal Services Access Corporation (USAC), the organization responsible for dispersing and overseeing E-Rate funds, found that BPL was in compliance with federal E-Rate requirements.

If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me at the number provided below.

[name elided]

[name elided]
Community Liaison
Brooklyn Borough President
Marty Markowitz
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Phone Number: [elided]
Fax Number:     [elided]

The Brooklyn Borough President has reacted to the resignation by lauding the director most graciously.  See:  "Brooklyn Public Library Chief Resigns," by Rich Calder, New York Post, 4 March 2010.

Conspiracy to Commit Fraud

What the above message from the Brooklyn Borough President tells me is that the library misled the President and KPMG, and there may be a conspiracy to commit fraud.  How else does one explain how the library survived the 2007 KMPG audit?  Had the library disclosed that it allows patrons to unfilter the computers for themselves?  There certainly would have been consequences vis-a-vis the E-rate funding received in the past and in the future.  Remember, as I disclosed on my other blog posts, what the library says in writing complies with the law, but differs from what the library allows in practice.

Evidence of Fraud Begins in 2004

Potential evidence of the perpetration of the fraud first appeared in 2004.  That was the first time it was publicly noted that the library may be skirting the relevant law:

By the way, the very means the library uses to defraud the government is the American Library Association's [ALA] recommended means, as discussed in one of my previous posts.  I predict that the ALA will not change its guidance/policy even if violations are eventually proven. 

Mack-Harvin May Have Resigned to Quit Fraudulent Practice

Everything on my blog is my opinion unless backed up with reliable sources.   It is possible that the director resigned to stop playing a role in defrauding the federal government, something that may have been ongoing since at least 2004 and that continues to this day.

It is possible she joined the library when the fraudulent activity was already well underway, and now that I have brought the matter to the public's attention, or now that she has considered what I have said and found it may be valid, she has had the integrity to resign from such an operation.

I could be totally wrong.   I think the August 2009 firings are too remote to cause a resignation now, seven months later and after the matter had quieted down.  And she said they didn't.  On the other hand, I think the Brooklyn Borough President's letter occurring just two weeks before the resignation and all the background that goes with it is coincidentally close, no?

Good Luck to Dionne Mack-Harvin

I wish the director well, no matter what the truth may ultimately be.  But if she resigned to avoid perpetrating a fraud, she will truly be a role model librarian/citizen.  As one commenter ("Concerned Librarian in Brooklyn") on the Library Journal article said:

In the big picture, she did well and is leaving us a better, stronger organization.  Our circulation is the highest it has ever been, many frontline staff are happier than with past administrations, we are more honest and more transparent.  At least for three years it was nice to have one of our own in charge and to see a young, accomplished, African American woman in charge of the fifth largest public library system in the world.  Now we are left to the mercy of the Board of Trustees:  a bunch of clueless, overly political, nasty, corrupt, individuals as only Brooklyn could create.

"Corrupt"!  Coincidence?

What do you think?  Please comment below.



  1. There is, of course, the simple explanation, one that requires no presumption of fraud, conspiracy, or pulling the wool over the eyes of auditors. That is to recognize that the CIPA allows a library to permit adult patrons to turn off the filter on demand. An adult patron surfing the web without the filter, then, is not evidence of any kind of fraud on the part of the library, the auditor was correct in concluding that the BPL was in compliance with the CIPA. The CIPA itself allows this choice, and the US v. ALA Supreme Court decisions strengthened and emphasized that point. You just refuse to accept the simple fact of the matter.

  2. Noncensor99, thanks for writing.

    CIPA does not allow patrons to turn off filters for themselves. No ifs, ands, or buts. Saying "CIPA itself allows this choice, and the US v. ALA Supreme Court decisions strengthened and emphasized that point" is nice, but it is factually and legally incorrect.

    Besides, it's common sense. Think about it. Why go though all the motions and why waste US Supreme Court effort just to install an onscreen button that with one click provides unfiltered access to anyone?

    There is no fraud in an honest mistake. There is no honest mistake here, however, in my opinion. You have a library saying one thing in writing and doing something else in practice while not disclosing that practice, as I'll bet the certifications to obtain funding will show.

    Further, according to a comment in a Library Journal article by an apparent librarian in that library, the library board of trustees is "corrupt." I pointed this out in my blog post.

  3. It is true that if one tries quite hard, one can construe the CIPA as IMPLYING that a patron cannot disable the filter himself, but must ask some library employee to disable it. I say IMPLY because the CIPA does not make a clear statement on the point; it is a question of who can be "authorized" by the library to take this step. This has been argued both ways by legal experts. The FCC was aware of this debate, and explicitly declined to formulate any rules on the matter, leaving it up to each library to decide. See FCC order 01-120, or see the applicable excerpt here:

    What, then, is the basis of your claim that the BPL has engaged in Fraud? The FCC will NOT proceed against a library for allowing an adult patron to disable the filter himself, since the FCC has given written permission for any library to do so.

    And either way, what difference does it make? Whether the patron can disable the filter himself, or has to go to a library employee to disable the filter, either way the filter is disabled. Remember that the library employee can't ask for a reason, and therefore has no decision-making authority: the patron asks and the employee has no choice but to disable on demand. It is an empty formality, a waste of time, and makes no difference in the outcome.

    If an adult patron abuses unfiltered access to look at materials that are illegally obscene in the jurisdiction within which the library is located, that is a police matter (and frequently is). But it is not any kind of fraud with regard to CIPA certification.

  4. Noncensor99, thanks for writing, but you are simply wrong as to the law and otherwise have not read nor understood what I have said.

    Show me, for example, where, as you say, emphasis/shouting yours, "[t]he FCC will NOT proceed against a library for allowing an adult patron to disable the filter himself, since the FCC has given written permission for any library to do so." Where is that "written permission" "for allowing an adult patron to disable the filter himself"?

    You remind me of the Simon and Garfunkel song, The Boxer:

    "Still a man hears what he wants to hear
    And disregards the rest."

    This post is about the BPL director's resignation possibly being for laudable reasons instead of how she is being portrayed in the media, so I'll not address your comments further, though I may in a future blog post.

  5. Very well. I look forward to reading your explication of the law. I assume you will explain how to interpret USC Section 254(h)(5)(D) and (6)(D)so as to conclude that the patron and the person disabling the filter must be two distinct individuals. You will also need to address item 53 in FCC order 01-120, to clarify how the FCC will consider it an actionable fraud if a library allows adults to disable their own filters.

  6. Noncensor99, please do not rewrite my statements. I never said "it [is] an actionable fraud if a library allows adults to disable their own filters."

  7. I would not want to put words in your mouth. What, then, is the nature of your claim of CIPA fraud at the BPL? Is it that they disable the filter at all, that they allow the filter to be disabled by the patron, or something else? Please clarify.

  8. Simply reread my blog posts that I linked.

  9. Hi, I am very pleased to encounter your blog that is passionate about the subject matter that I am also interested in; I am a freelance journalist who once took up a job in the library--BPL the exact site--and got fired last year in a very a peculiar way that I was so puzzled; I was categorized as insubordination when I pursued to find my missing paycheck. As it turned out, the supervisor of mine attempted to silence me begging and coercing--he was responsible for the missing check--and he zapped me right after I pointed out his behavior uncivil as well as unprofessional. But I did never think I was to be terminated for trying to get my paycheck. If anyone, should he have gone instead of me? As I am typing, this memory still cracks me for the banal novelty.

    My understanding was that he was scared of me as I had witnessed his blunder and his incompetence so he fired me hurriedly. This kind of behavior was a norm in BPL and actually a lot of people seem to file lawsuits against them for their simply bad management. That is what I learned by now. But then, I was dumbfounded by this uncharted territory of Urban Library's criminal jungle, for I still thought this was a municipal job, so its violation of law should be examined carefully. While I was looking for a right party to discuss this--now I know there is no party available who would hear you out in their management--, nobody was available nor engaged in. All was either indifferent and quasi illiterate clerk or very corrupted, therefore nervous to death, ax-hungry--'kill them before they kill you' sloganed psychotic librarian.

    I thought of pursuing a legal recourse not because I was fired but because it was unsettling to be represented as something apparently false. I needed a little bit more reason for my termination even if I could not be happier to go. Or I needed to see someone who could see the wrong thing wrong as I saw. As a consequence of the attempt to communicate with someone who was supposed to be in charge of, supposed to be more reasonable and responsible to be able to communicate w/ came out even more banal to the level of laughable.

    HR sent back this very inadequate note to try to silence me, saying that I was elevated to 'poor performance' from insubordination and they would not mention anything to my prospective employers in my next job search--wow, that is also a false presentation of the incident as well as indicating some 'I hush if you hush; you own me' message (!) in awry even more-- and I had to conclude this place is run by some incredulously corrupted--let alone stupid--people if this was as good as it would get after a serious pursuit of justice. Their corruption is something nurtured in the long term and systematic in the administration, and ignorance and violence rules the rest.

    I was pleased to know the director Mack-Harvin go. But this is not the end of their corruption. Not at all.

    Now it makes a total sense if it involved the sum of money and possible jail time...the former director probably ran away scared given the responsibility that would be dumped on her when it was completely disclosed. The former director of Mack Harvin also left the title in the shady situation. But my idea of 'real justice' is Mack-Harvin herself should have gotten down to disclosing of what constituted the corruption and it was obviously there-- in order to put an end to the poignant state the library is managed.

    Did you ever come to the library? The environment is simply a crime infested, urban and uncivilized at the same time.(Or are these two becoming synonym nowadays?) It is ironic that a lot of patrons as well as clerk level workers are illiterate, which means they don't benefit what they have (maybe except internet porn BPL is blatantly presenting) and security guards are the most questionable crew regarding protecting people from any danger.

  10. Anonymous, I have visited the library. I am not yet ready to release the results of my visit. Feel free to contact me at my email address.

  11. Hi

    I read this post two times.

    I like it so much, please try to keep posting.

    Let me introduce other material that may be good for our community.

    Source: Library director interview questions

    Best regards


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