Miami-Dade Staffers Flew to Italy During Budget Crisis, Ex-Librarian Says

Like most librarians in Miami-Dade County, Julio Granda Jr. was worried about the financial future of his institution. Under County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the system had lost $30 million in funding over several years and, in the summer of 2013, was staring down an additional $20 million cut. But when Granda confronted the man he held partly responsible for the library's woes — longtime library director Raymond Santiago — at a meeting, Granda says the director "went into a tirade" and remarked, as part of a heated monologue, that if he left, "this organization is fucked."

Granda quit after the incident with Santiago, and commissioners ended up using emergency funds to cover the shortfall, averting disaster for the library. But with those funds set to expire in September and another crisis looming, Granda claims Santiago deserves a share of the blame. The director, he says, has mismanaged library finances, unwisely continued an overseas exchange partnership, and passed up lucrative fundraising opportunities.

"It was mismanagement over a lot of years," Granda says. "Once the funding went, it was very poor decision-making all the way around."

Santiago defends his tenure and also questions Granda's credibility. "You realize this is a low-level employee you're getting information from," he tells Riptide.

The director, who earns $191,000 a year, signed off on two staffers jetting to Milan in March for a cultural exchange. The airfare, as well as the Italian partners' upcoming stay in Miami, is paid for by grants and county programming funding, but Santiago couldn't provide a dollar amount for how much the library covered.

"I have a problem with that as a taxpayer," Granda says of the county's partial funding of the program, "if my child doesn't have a book and they're sending these people to Europe."

Granda also complains that Santiago ignored promising opportunities, such as a proposed revenue-sharing deal between the library and a concessionaire that would have brought food vendors to branches — which Granda estimates would have generated more than $1 million for the county — and a pro bono marketing offer. "How do you pass that up — for free?" the ex-employee exclaims. "In whose right mind?"

But Santiago, who says he hasn't had a raise in seven years and pays his own parking, defends the Italian exchange as an important piece of the library's cultural work. "We don't just lend books," he says.

Santiago also denies he ignored marketing opportunities. The concessions agreement was thoroughly investigated before it was turned down, he says, and the pro bono offer never existed. The director also says that he doesn't remember the incident with Granda and that he certainly "didn't say the library system would be fucked... I would never say that. This library system doesn't depend on any one person."

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Trevor Bach