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Lexington Library employees spent $350,000 in three years

LEXINGTON, KY -- Nineteen Lexington Public Library employees who had active library credit cards, other than chief executive Kathleen Imhoff, spent about $350,000 with them over the past three years, according to a Herald-Leader review of library documents, reports The Lexington Herald-Leader in its Sunday edition.

Earlier this month, the library board voted to cancel most of those credit cards after a Herald-Leader story detailing $134,000 that Imhoff spent in five years on travel, meals, gifts and other items. Imhoff and four others were allowed to keep their cards.

The majority of the 19 employees charged for work-related travel and materials, as the credit cards are intended under library policy. Several employees seldom used their cards.

But thousands of dollars also were spent on beer, wine and liquor; parties and gifts for library board members, staff and their families; "working meals" for Imhoff and other library managers at upscale Lexington restaurants; and donations to the library Imhoff previously worked for in Florida.

Just last week, Imhoff reimbursed $132 after the Herald-Leader asked about a 2007 dinner at Jonathan's at Gratz Park to which she brought her husband. That meal was charged as library business to another employee's card.

Among the employees allowed to keep their cards is Imhoff's executive assistant, AnnaMarie Cornett, who charged $66,109 since 2006. Nearly all of those charges were for Imhoff or other library officials, not for Cornett herself.

The library board still trusts Imhoff, said chairman Burgess Carey, but thinks the library needs to more carefully watch its non-essential purchases.

"We felt like we had too many cards out there, and we wanted to monitor this spending more closely," said Carey, who this month began to review Imhoff's credit card bills.

Most of the library's $15 million annual budget comes from a dedicated portion of Fayette County property taxes.

Red flags have been raised over the credit cards in the past. A library audit in 2007 warned about questionable spending on the cards. At least one library employee was fired for inappropriate use of a card, although Imhoff declined to give details, citing "confidentiality."

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