Special Reports

CEO calls library stories 'inaccurate'

The Lexington Public Library's chief executive officer criticized the Herald-Leader this week for what she called "inaccurate" coverage of her expenses, although her board chairman later said the board does not challenge the newspaper's facts.

Chief executive Kathleen Imhoff called the American Libraries Association last week to complain that its online newsletter, American Libraries, ran a link to an April 26 Herald-Leader story about more than $134,000 she spent over five years on travel, meals, gifts and other items.

Imhoff, an ALA member, said she told American Libraries editor Leonard Kniffel that she wanted him to write her version of events. A story Monday headlined "Lexington Director Imhoff: Scrutiny of Finances Inaccurate" was posted on the ALA Web site.

In the story, Imhoff said the Herald-Leader coverage was inaccurate, misleading and unfair to her. She said the library board was extremely unhappy with the newspaper and added, "Our board is waiting until the story is over to consider further action."

However, library board chairman Burgess Carey said Thursday that the board is not planning action against the Herald-Leader. While people can disagree about the value of some of the spending listed in the newspaper's story, the board does not challenge its facts, Carey said.

"I have asked Kathleen to contact the author of that (American Libraries) story and have the statement removed that she attributed to the board," Carey said. "That didn't come from me, and I'm the chairman."

Kniffel said the article was "an opportunity for her to tell her professional colleagues her side of the story."

"What's happening to Kathleen Imhoff is certainly instructive," he said, "in terms of how you handle expense accounts and how easily you can get tangled up in these things."

On Friday, Imhoff said she called American Libraries, although the online story had not been revised by early evening.

"I stand by my statements that the stories were inaccurate," Imhoff said. "But no, the board has not decided to take further action."

"The Herald-Leader's examination of expenses at the Lexington Public Library was thorough, fair and well-documented," said Peter Baniak, the Herald-Leader's deputy managing editor for news.

"The stories were all about the use and oversight of public tax dollars. The library's director and board members were quoted throughout the initial story and follow-up stories, and given opportunities to explain the expenses and library procedures. The Herald-Leader also posted on the Web a database of the expenses so members of the public could reach their own conclusions."

He noted that Carey has stated publicly that the questions raised by the Herald-Leader were legitimate, and Carey has already made policy changes in response. "We stand behind the stories," Baniak said.

Apart from the newspaper's coverage, city auditors have removed paper and computer records from Imhoff's office at the Central Library as part of an official examination of possible misspending.