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May 11, 2015

Firestorm Erupts Over Shift of New Orleans Library Funds

The New Orleans Public Library Foundation gave more than $860,000 for the development of a new venue for a music nonprofit led by a foundation board member, The Daily Beast writes, citing reporting TV station WWL. The station's investigation has ignited controversy over the dual role of Grammy-winning musician Irvin Mayfield, head of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, for which the $10 million Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market was built.

The foundation has traditionally been charged with raising money for the city's public library system. In 2012 its board rewrote its bylaws, expanding its mission to supporting other "literacy and community organizations." The foundation gave $666,000 to the Jazz Market that year and $197,000 in 2013. Ronald Markham, the board's president, said the money was used for a satellite library within the music venue, which opened in March in a gentrifying central New Orleans neighborhood.

Mr. Mayfield has not spoken publicly about the controversy. Mr. Markham, who like Mr. Mayfield draws a salary of more than $100,000 from the jazz orchestra, resigned Friday as head of the library foundation's board, WWL also reports. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called for a suite of reforms at the foundation, including a complete separation between it and the orchestra.