Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
4:30 PM at Meeting Room, RFPL, Bellows Falls, VT
Board members in attendance: Jan Mitchell-Love, Hope Brissette, Deb Wright, Pat Fowler, Elayne Clift, Carolyn Frisa, Ray Massucco and Laura Senes.
Staff in attendance: Mary Van Hartesveldt and Emily Zervas.
Public attendees: Kathleen Michel, David DeRusha, Steve Geller, Celina Houlne, Arnold Clift, David Gould, Joel Love, Tim Dougherty and Joe Brissette.
1. Call to order at 4:35pm by Jan Mitchell-Love.
2. Public Comment: Several members of the public suggested that the hiring of a new director should be deferred until after March 4. Several members of the public stated that they feel the hiring process should continue.
3. Approve minutes of January 14th, 2014 trustees’ meeting and January 21st special meeting: Pat Fowler made a motion to approve the January 14th, 2014 minutes with the amendment that Carolyn Frisa made the motion to approve the December 10, 2013 minutes not Elayne Clift. This motion, seconded by Hope Brissette passed with 6 in favor, none opposed and 1 abstention. Deb Wright made a motion to approve the January 21st special meeting minutes, with the amendment of changing ‘hiring committee’ to ‘search committee’ wherever it appears in the minutes. This motion, seconded by Carolyn Frisa passed with 6 in favor, none opposed and 1 abstention.
4. Librarian’s Monthly Report:
a. Report: Emily Zervas presented the Librarian’s monthly report. The ADA inspectors visited on Jan. 28 and 29 and inspected the top and bottom floors, but have not completed their inspection. The new story time rug is set-up in the youth program room. Copies of the Vermont Humanities Council Community Reads Book, “Wonder” are available. The first program will be on February 27 at 7pm.
b. Financial Reports: Mary Van Hartesveldt presented and responded to questions about the financial report. The library owes the town about $8,000 for FY12. There were questions about the increase in library liability insurance, which the Finance Committee will look into and report about at the next meeting.
c. Procedure for notifying press of meetings: Emily Zervas reports information from Sam Maskell who checked with the Secretary of State about standing orders from the press for notification of meetings. The press may make a standing order for notification of special meetings for 1 year. Emily Zervas will get the exact language and send it to board members. It was decided by consensus that the staff will be responsible for complying with this request, and whoever puts notification on the calendar will send out the warning. d. Record’s requests-trustees’ and RFPL’s responsibilities: Emily Zervas reports for Sam Maskell. The RFPL repository is a place to save public records, but it is still each trustee’s responsibility to comply with any public records requests. If a trustee needs to access the repository, he or she must come to the library to be helped by Sam or Emily.
e. Other: Emily Zervas reports for Sam Maskell to address questions about email forwarding from Celina’s library email address. This address still receives emails, which are then forwarded to Sam. Emails cannot be sent from this account. Wendy and Ed’s accounts are also still receiving emails.
5. Committee Reports
a. Building – Hope Brissette: The Building Committee checked with Lawrence and Lober who stated that the outside lights cannot be adjusted, but the glass can be painted and the timing can be changed. The Building Committee will meet again to address the noise issue, as any solution will need to wait until spring, and will need to go to zoning. (Carolyn Frisa leaves at 5:30.) Elayne Clift made a motion to pay to professionally adjust the lights at a cost of up to $300. Deb Wright seconds this motion with the friendly amendment to increase the amount to $350. Elayne Clift accepted this amendment. The motion passed with 5 in favor, none opposed, and 1 abstention. Hope will inform the neighbors.
b. Communication – no report
c. Finance – Deb Wright and Pat Fowler
Reinvestment of annuity: There is a discrepancy with the tax ID numbers that needs to get ironed out before we can reinvest. Pat has a call into Chip Stearns to figure this out and will update the board at the meeting next week. Attorney bills update: Deb Wright reports that the attorney bills have been paid. Deb Wright asked Mr. Ankuda about the charge for a conversation with Ray Massucco, but has not received any further clarification about this charge. Ray does not recall this conversation. Part time staff benefits: personal leave and sick leave: There is presently a bill in the state legislature requiring mandatory sick leave, which may be decided by town meeting day. It was agreed by consensus to table this topic until the March meeting.
d. Historical Collection – Carolyn Frisa – update: Presented by Pat Fowler. Recent tasks accomplished include repairs to the locks on the historical collections storage in the library, and repair and assessment of the grandfather clock. Upcoming projects were also presented.
e. Policy – Reminder: bylaws meeting (for all trustees) on February 18th, 2014 at 4:00p.m. There will also be an update by Pat Fowler on reinvesting the annuity. And Constance Pell the attorney from VLCT for the lawsuit will attend.
f. Personnel – Jan M-L – Search Committee update: The Search Committee has 5 candidates to interview. Also, the Search Committee would like the public to only address this Committee with issues pertaining to the Search Committee. Otherwise comments should be directed to the Library Board. Elayne Clift discussed a letter she emailed to the Board prior to the meeting that she had read at the Search Committee meeting. (Attached.)
6. Old Business:
a. 2014 workshop with Amy Howlett – This workshop has been cancelled because Amy Howlett had wanted to address this board.
b. Correspondence –Attorney General letter on Open Meeting Law/SMP Pre Mediation Demand letter: Jan Mitchell-Love will read a letter under director’s comments addressing the Attorney General letter. A letter has been sent to SMP stating intent to make claim for damages.
7. New Business: Selectboard meeting- Tuesday, February 18th at 6:00 p.m. (probably the start time): We will be first on the agenda, and then the Selectboard will enter executive session to discuss the lawsuit.
8. Review agenda items for next meeting. Current meeting date is Tuesday, March 11th at 4:30 p.m. in RFPL’s Meeting Room. Any agenda items should be sent to Jan Mitchell-Love.
9. Executive Session (if necessary): Not necessary.
10. Trustees’ Comments: Ray Massucco stated he believes the new Board should have input on choosing the new director. Deborah Wright disagrees. Elayne Clift expresses concern about hiring a new director considering the lawsuit. Hope Brissette thanked Laura Senes and Deb Wright for their service on the Library Board. Pat Fowler stated that she hopes recommendations for the new director go to the new Library Board. Laura Senes stated that the press and public should be more respectful in their treatment of volunteers if the public hopes to continue to get good volunteers from the community. Jan Mitchell-Love thanked those members who are leaving the Board and read a letter she wrote concerning open meeting law. (Letter attached).
11. Adjourn: Motion to adjourn made by Hope Brissette, seconded by Deb Wright, passed unanimously at 7:17 p.m.
Minutes respectfully submitted by Secretary Laura Senes on February 16, 2014.
Letter submitted by Elayne Clift
Statement to Search Committee, Feb. 10, 2014 by Elayne Clift, Trustee
First let me say that I appreciate the civility with which the Search Committee has conducted its business and the respect it has shown to members of the public who have attended your meetings.
However, I must say for the record that I have some deep concerns about recent decisions and actions taken by the committee. I am very disturbed by the letter that was sent on Friday to candidates selected for interview which failed to note either that the lawsuit in process cites wrongful dismissal and calls for reinstatement of the former director, or that within a matter of weeks there will be several new Trustees taking their seats. This is absolutely critical information for any prospective candidate to know. I am troubled that the letter sent to candidates is misleading in implying that the suit is without merit, that the Committee feels “secure” in the selection of a new director, and further, suggests that a “period of healing” has begun.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth given that a majority of the current Board of Trustees were denied the opportunity – by some of their own colleagues, I note – to review and approve the letter sent to candidates, and that there has been total disregard for the new Trustees who will be seated in a mere 3 weeks. I think it is fair to say that not all of “our wonderful library and community” will be happy with the somewhat misleading letter sent to candidates, or with the fact that present and prospective Trustees have been shut out of the process by which a final candidate is being hastily identified and interviewed.
I suggest with some urgency that the Search Committee think very carefully indeed about what could happen once this runaway train crosses the bridge of the March 4th election. One scenario within the realm of possibility is that a candidate could be selected and resign his or her present position, only to find that before they have taken up the new post it is no longer available – a possibility that MUST be taken into consideration. Such an event, which cannot be ruled out, would create havoc and ill-will. It might even result in legal difficulties.
The Library Directorship has been open for several months now. While this has created a heavy workload for the present staff, the library is functioning well. What is to be gained by barreling ahead and ignoring the fact that new Trustees are soon to be seated which could result in important decisions being taken that are at odds with decisions taken by the present board? What is to be gained by ignoring the input of present Trustees? And most importantly, what could happen if you set up a situation in which an applicant might find themselves in a totally untenable position?
I ask you to carefully consider these questions before any damage is done. And I ask that this statement be entered into the record. Thank you.
Letter read by Jan Mitchell-Love:
To RFPL Board of Trustees and the Community-at-large:
I understand that at last night’s forum someone mentioned that I had broken Open Meeting Law six times. This is not a good thing. However, upon reflection it’s also not a very high number of violations. Just two days ago, on Sunday, one of the two trustees appointed to our board this summer – the one who is running for a three-year library position – violated Open Meeting Law by sending out a newsy e-mail to all the trustees. He’s been told time and again that this is breaking Open Meeting Law but continues to do it. About the same time the other trustee appointed to our board this summer – the one who is not running for a library position – sent out yet another of her long letters to all the trustees. She does this on a regular basis – my favorite e-mail from her came about a month ago when she stated that she knew she was breaking Open Meeting Law in sending out that particular e-mail but she had to – it was important.
My point is not that these two are terrible people for breaking Open Meeting Law. My point is it is hard NOT to break Open Meeting Law. Its concept is solid and laudable; we do want transparent government, and we do want citizens to be able to offer their opinions and insights at public meetings. But the current rules for Open Meeting Law make it almost impossible to follow the law without breaking it, and that is what is happening in many places, including our own town. My understanding is the legislature is going back and reviewing the Open Meeting Law details with the intention of making the law more user-friendly. In my opinion, this is a good thing because ultimately, you don’t want a law in place that people are not able to follow. You want public boards to be able to conduct their business and follow the Open Meeting Law – exactly — at the same time.
But let’s get back to me and my breaking of Open Meeting Law. The Attorney General identified several instances where I broke it, and I agree with most of them.
Number 1: the RFPL Board of Trustees did have an illegal vote in May to close the library. We were following our bylaws which turned out to be illegal when compared to Vermont law. This led to a lively discussion involving the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and several other state officials that went on for a couple of days at the state level. They decided late on a Friday afternoon that Vermont law trumped our bylaws and we needed to revote. I scheduled a meeting as quickly as I could get a quorum together and retook the vote. The Attorney General complimented me for taking care of this matter so quickly: I understand one of the library trustee candidates up for election – the one who is presently on the board because the Selectboard put him there – was critical of this at last night’s forum.
Number 2: I denied a citizen the right to speak at a July meeting. I did do this as I told the Attorney General. After the occurrence I went out on my own and researched the law, made the correction, and did not wait for the complaint from citizens to be made. I told this to the Attorney General when he wrote me about the complaint. In that letter, I also explained to him that I was following a precedent set by the Bellows Falls Trustees where I and other Rockingham residents were denied the right to speak because we were not Bellows Falls residents. Interestingly, this happened again at a January, 2014 joint Selectboard-Trustees meeting. I raised my hand to point out to Roger Riccio, Bellows Falls Trustees Chair, the Open Meeting Law violation he was committing, but someone else in the audience beat me to it.
So I said I agreed with most of the Attorney General’s findings in his December 16th, 2013 letter. Here is what I do not agree with, and interestingly, my disagreements all center around Elayne Clift’s complaints which only encompass about one third of the Attorney General’s letter.
First Disagreement: There is a quote from an April 3rd, 2013 e-mail I wrote – the contents of which we covered at our April, 2013 trustees meeting – where the first part of the quote is given but the last part is not. Basically what I said was that if you had a quorum showing up for a committee meeting, you had to warn the committee meeting as a trustees’ meeting or it either could not be held or some trustees had to leave – there cannot be a gathering of a quorum of trustees to discuss library business without warning it as a trustees’ meeting. The clear message of my e-mail and what I later said at the April, 2013 trustees’ meeting was that it was a simple matter of warning the committee/trustees meeting correctly so that any interested trustee could attend the meeting. The terminated director, Ms. Clift, and some of her followers have continued to only give the first line of this e-mail message and contend my intent was to prevent committees from meeting. To quote one line out of context and without the rest of the lines that go with it is a form of lying. I did not know until receiving the Attorney General’s December letter that Ms. Clift had said this about my April 3rd, 2013 e-mail, or I would have corrected the record with the Attorney General earlier. If I had sent the Attorney General the full e-mail message, my assumption would be that the Attorney General would have had no objection to what I said because it is correct: again, if a quorum of the board shows up for a committee meeting, the committee meeting has to be warned as a board meeting, not a committee meeting or it either cannot take place or some trustees have to go home.
Second Disagreement: Ms. Clift again lifts a line from a February 4, 2013 e-mail about Personnel Committee meetings not being public meetings. She failed to report that that was an inadvertent error on my part – quickly corrected so that the phrase reads that executive sessions of Personnel Committee meetings are not public. Ms. Clift has been corrected on this detail multiple times, so again I did not realize until receiving the December 16th Attorney General’s letter that she had reported this e-mail phrase to him without the correction. He correctly said that Personnel meetings were public meetings; I’m sure he would agree that the executive sessions of Personnel meetings are not.
Third Disagreement: Ms. Clift apparently told the Attorney General that I stated that the minutes of a meeting should only include votes taken with no discussion. I cannot account for this as a misinterpretation or twisting of my words on Ms. Clift’s part; this one is a total fabrication (that’s a synonym for lying). As a matter of fact, twice in the past eighteen months, in the fall of 2012 and again in the spring of 2013, I have brought in copies of the Open Meeting Law for all trustees, and we have reviewed what the law has to say on minutes. And it most definitely does NOT say that minutes should omit any discussion details — it does say that minutes should not include a blow by blow accounting of the discussions and that every public official is responsible for taking his/her own notes to augment what the minutes have to say. But minutes should give a flavor of the discussions that take place.
Fourth Disagreement: no minutes of the Personnel Committee were posted on the RFPL website. This is true; as a board, the trustees decided to only have minutes of trustees’ meetings on the website, not committee meetings. If members of the public wanted minutes of committee meetings, they could request them. However, Mr. Reynolds knows quite well that minutes were kept of the Personnel Committee meetings as, when five Friends of the Library wrote the original complaint to him in April, 2013 that Ms. Clift has apparently augmented as the year has gone on, one of the things he requested from our board was agendas and minutes for all committees for the preceding calendar year. Interestingly, the only missing minutes were from two of the signers of the April letter – former board members, Debbie Wetzel and Duane Whitehead – who could not produce some of the sets of minutes from the committees they chaired. The Personnel Committee’s paperwork was in excellent order as was every other trustees’ committee except for theirs.
Sorry to have gone on for so long, but linking my name to Open Meeting Law violations in an effort to besmirch my reputation and my board’s reputation has gone on for too long. Last night’s aspersions from one of the candidates for the new library board – the one who was appointed by the Selectboard against trustees’ wishes – made it clear to me that these charges should be answered.
I respect Open Meeting Law. As a matter of fact, I, along with Pat Fowler, were the only two library trustees who bothered to show up for the Secretary of State’s most informative November presentation. Certainly Ms. Clift was not present. My assumption is that attendance was not a high priority for her because that might involve getting her facts straight, and that does not appear to be what she is interested in. Character assassination, yes. Accurate fact reporting, no.
Lastly, I owe Mr. Reynolds a thank you. I appreciate your careful attention to the details shared with you about our RFPL board. I appreciate all the time you have taken in listening to our citizens. I appreciate the fact that you saw and stated that neither I nor my Board have ever intentionally violated Open Meeting Law. And your point is well taken that we should all continue to educate ourselves on the law. And we are endeavoring to do so. The November visit from the Secretary of State that I attended was immensely helpful in that regard.
Thanks to all for listening.