Residents question Hoag leaders over personnel changes

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 November 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Albion resident Ken Braunbach says Hoag Library has lost five valuable employees recently. He asked if a new director or the Board of Trustees was pushing the recent changes in personnel. He asked Board President Kevin Doherty to resign from his position.

ALBION – It started with the termination of Susan Rudnicky as library director in March. Her long-time assistant then resigned. Since a new director started in August, three more long-time employees have left. One was fired, another resigned with the other retiring.

About 60 people attended the Board of Trustees meeting tonight for the library. Several speakers said they were upset by the loss of five employees who collectively worked at the library for 130 years, according to former trustee Mary Anne Braunbach.

She has asked board members about the changes, wanting to know the board was pushing for the personnel changes or new director Jeff Davignon.

“The board says they can’t talk about it,” Braunbach said at tonight’s meeting. “That’s why people go into public office: to talk about it.”

Mary Anne Braunbach

Board President Kevin Doherty said he shouldn’t discuss personnel issues publicly. He said he would be open to a meeting with the public with more back and forth comments but he first wanted to check with an attorney and other board members to “establish ground rules.”

“I don’t want a situation where I create a liability for the organization,” he told the group.

Pat Cammarata, a former library trustee, urged Doherty and the board to provide some insight to the public about the personnel changes.

“It might help to resolve some of the tension,” she said.

Resident Gary Derwick expressed his disappointment with the loss of several long-term staff members.

“Let’s celebrate these people rather than an act of dishonor or disgrace in how these people were let go,” Derwick said.

Kevin Doherty, president of the board, said he needed to check with an attorney before commenting on personnel at the library. He said he could publicly discuss personnel policies but not specific employees.

After several speakers at the meeting tonight, Doherty tried to go on to other board business. That angered some of the residents who wanted Doherty to address the staffing issues.

He told the group they didn’t speak for the entire library service area, about 16,000 people in the towns of Barre, Albion, Gaines and Carlton.

Doherty noted the circulation numbers haven’t dropped and people are honoring their pledges to a capital campaign for the new library.

“The 60 people here are not respective of the entire district,” Doherty said.

Several residents then walked out in a show of disgust.

Former library employee and trustee Terry-Lynn Corrigan said she would withhold her pledge because of the changes at the library.

“It’s not because I don’t think the building is worth it,” she said. “It’s because I don’t like what is going on. I’m not giving my pledge until this place is cleaned up.”

Cammarata urged Corrigan and other community members to honor their commitments to the capital campaign.

“Reneging now represents a broken promise,” she said. “If the pledges aren’t there it means a cut in services. If there is a shortfall, who will suffer? It won’t be the board because they aren’t getting paid. It will be community and the staff.”

Joe Gehl asked if changes in staffing had hurt circulation numbers and donations to the library. He was told both numbers haven’t been hurt.

Brian Kent is the son of Grace Kent, who was terminated last month. He said donors to the campaign gave to more than a building, but also for the character of the library. He said recent decisions are not in sync with the library’s proud tradition.

While several speakers spoke against the recent changes, saying they’ve hurt staff morale and created an unwelcome environment for library users, one employee said she supports the changes.

Charity Garrow works in tech services for the Hoag. She refuted the claims that all staff oppose the new programs and direction at the library.

“The people who are commenting that everyone is unhappy with everything, that’s not the case,” Garrow said. “There is good going on here and it’s being buried by some of the negative comments.”