Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes: Tuesday, November 12, 2013

4:30 PM
LOCATION: Meeting Room, RFPL, Bellows Falls, VT

Board members in attendance: Jan Mitchell-Love, Hope Brissette, Deb Wright, Paige Pietrzak, Pat Fowler, Carolyn Frisa, Elayne Clift and Laura Senes.
Staff in attendance: Mary Van Hartesveldt, Emily Zervas and Samantha Maskell.
Town Attorney: Stephen Ankuda
Public attendees: Arnold Clift, Kathleen Michel, Anne Parkman, Donna Stevens, Célina Houlné, Wendy O’Connell, David Gould and David DeRusha.
Press in attendance: Susan Smallheer (Rutland Herald), Chris Garofolo (Eagle Times). Domenic Poli (Brattleboro Reformer) and Allison Teague (The Commons).

1. Call to order 4:38 PM

2. Public Comment: None

3. Public records requests- Town attorney, Stephen Ankuda, sent a legal opinion letter on November 8th, 2013 and presented at the meeting to answer trustees’ questions. Elayne Clift made a motion to establish an email address as a repository for the RFPL public records. This motion, seconded by Carolyn Frisa, passed with 7 in favor, none opposed. Carolyn Frisa made a motion that the Board of Trustees not blind copy (BCC:) in sending emails. This motion, seconded by Deb Wright, passed with 7 in favor, none opposed. A motion was made by Carolyn Frisa that the Board of Trustees create a policy regarding Trustee email communication. This motion, seconded by Pat Fowler, passed with 7 in favor, none opposed.

4. Approve minutes of September 10, 2013 trustees’ meeting and the following special meeting minutes: August 29th, 2013, October 1st, 2013, October 22nd, 2013 and October 29th, 2013-Deborah Wright made a motion to pass the September 10, 2013 trustees’ meeting minutes. This motion seconded by Hope Brissette, passed with 5 in favor, 2 abstentions. Deborah Wright made a motion to pass the August 29, 2013 recessed meeting minutes with the amendment that the meeting recessed at 10:10, not 11:10. This motion, seconded by Hope Brissette, passed with 6 in favor, 1 abstention. Hope Brissette made a motion to pass the October 1st, 2013 meeting minutes with the addition of the names of 2 public attendees. This motion, seconded by Deb Wright, passed with 7 in favor, none opposed.

A motion was made by Elayne Clift that in keeping with best practices re: meeting minutes, this Board includes in its minutes all action items that arise during the course of a regular Board meeting, that any documents shared with the Board be appended, that all Trustees receive Draft Minutes within five days of any Trustee meeting as required by law, and that all participate together in making amendments, corrections, or additions during regular Board meetings in order that those minutes can be adopted. This motion, seconded by Carolyn Frisa, passed with 5 in favor, 1 opposed and 1 abstention. A motion was made by Carolyn Frisa to pass the October 22, 2013 minutes after the removal of a public attendees’ name that is also listed under attendees from the press. This motion, seconded by Hope Brissette, passed with 7 in favor, none opposed.

A motion was made by Paige Pietrzak to pass the October 29, 2013 minutes with the amendment that brief public comment will be allowed on all agenda items. This motion, seconded by Carolyn Frisa, passed with 7 in favor, none opposed.

5. Director’s Monthly Report
a. Library sign- Frank Hawkins has provided us with a design and broad quote. Emily Zervas and Samantha Maskell will take this to the Building Committee.
b. Coordination of library ‘thank you’ effort-This will be tasked to the Communications Committee.
c. Generating a Library Wish List- Emily Zervas and Samantha Maskell are compiling a wish list for fundraising. This fundraising will be tasked to the Communications Committee, with the exception of the cleaning of the antique clock that will be tasked to the Historical Committee.
d. Meeting Room-draft Policies and Procedures– Emily Zervas and Samantha Maskell presented a Meeting Room Regulations and Application form. A motion was made by Hope Brissette to approve the Meeting Room Regulations and Application form with suggested amendments. This motion, seconded by Carolyn Frisa, passed with 7 in favor, none opposed. Emily Zervas and Samantha Maskell will send the amended form to the Trustees.
e. Financial Reports- Mary Van Hartesveldt presented the FY13 budget status and balance sheet. Pat Fowler informed the board that our ING Annuity fund matures on November 18, 2013 and the Finance Committee and Ray Massucco will meet with Linda Walker to look at other options to invest this money. Pat Fowler made a motion that the Treasurer’s special committee meeting with Linda Walker from People’s Bank on November 25th to evaluate the ING annuity account be given the authority to surrender the ING RFPL policy if it is financially beneficial to the library because of Market Value adjustment. This motion, seconded by Carolyn Frisa, passed with 8 in favor.

Carolyn Frisa made a motion to recess the meeting until November 19 at 4:30 in the RFPL meeting room. This motion, seconded by Paige Pietrzak, passed with 7 in favor, none opposed.

Resume meeting November 19, 2013

In attendance: Jan Mitchell-Love, Hope Brissette, Ray Massucco, Deb Wright, Paige Pietrzak, Pat Fowler, Carolyn Frisa, Elayne Clift and Laura Senes.
Public in attendance: David DeRusha, Célina Houlné, Betty Haggerty, Steve Geller, and Arnold Clift.
Press in attendance: Chris Garofolo (Eagle Times) and Domenic Poli (Brattleboro Reformer).

Call to order at 4:39 PM.

6. Committee Reports
a. Building-The committee has not met but will schedule to meet with Frank Hawkins about the sign.
b. Communications-The committee has not met but will schedule a meeting to work on the wish list
c. Finance-Deb Wright will call to clarify certain items on the attorney’s bill. The staff is working on next year’s budget, which will be ready to present in December. Finance will also find out from Chip Stearns if this is needed in December or January.
d. Historical-The Historical Committee is meeting the first Wednesday of every month for one hour. The Historical Committee will take on the task of fundraising to clean the antique clock.
e. Policy-The next meeting to work on Bylaws is scheduled for January 7, 2014 at 4:30 in the RFPL meeting room.
f. Personnel-The committee presented the Job Posting they were tasked to create. They will meet again to work on this further with Emily Zervas and Samantha Maskell.

7. Old Business
a. Get approval to correct DOL paperwork on terminated former director-A member of the public stated that this must be done in executive session.
b. Update on installation of lockout feature for library’s elevator-The lockout feature is installed.
c. Update on plans for library’s grand opening celebration-The celebration will take place in the spring, after the new shelving is installed. A date will be picked at the January Board of Trustees meeting. The FOL Holiday party is December 7th at noon. Raffle tickets are on sale and donations are being accepted for the raffle.

8. New Business
a. Discuss possible 3 hour workshop/retreat with Amy Howlett-Jan Mitchell-Love will check with Amy about possible dates and the requirement that everyone attend.
b. Reminder: Attorney General Jim Condos will be giving a presentation on Open Meeting law on November 20th at the Bellows Falls Opera House.
c. Reminder: Selectboard/Library Board of Trustees joint meeting, 6 p.m. on November 13th-Already occurred.

Emily Zervas asks the board if it is appropriate to call the highway department for certain small jobs in the library. Pat Fowler made a motion to allow Emily Zervas and Samantha Maskell to call the highway department for small items as needed and inform the trustees in the director’s report the next month. This motion, seconded by Ray Massucco, passed with 7 in favor, 1 abstention. Emily Zervas and Samantha Maskell will also contact the town manager as needed for information about which vendors to talk to if building problems arise.

Elayne Clift reported on visiting state workshops with Pat Fowler. The importance of involving the community in strategic planning was discussed. There is a panel discussion planned for 2/6/2014 to answer questions about the library and what it does for the community. The FOL would also like to plan a meeting with the community and Trustees in April. Elayne Clift will type something up to put on the agenda for the December Trustees meeting.

Ray Massucco discussed an email he wrote to the Trustees concerning emails between Jan Mitchell-Love, Deb Wright and Chip Stearns. Ray Massucco expressed concern that Jan Mitchell-Love and Deb Wright were acting outside the limit of their authority and wanted reassurance that this would not continue. Jan Mitchell-Love and Deb Wright explained that they felt they did not step outside of their authority in the emails with Chip Stearns, and also stated they would not take authority from the Board.

9. Review agenda items for next meeting and meeting date: Current meeting date is Tuesday, December 10th at 4:30 p.m. in RFPL’s meeting room. Send agenda items to Jan Mitchell-Love

10. Executive Session-Hope Brissette made a motion to go into executive session to talk about the DOL paperwork and a personnel matter. Ray Massucco said there must be a more specific reason given than personnel matters. The matter by which the director was terminated is inaccurate on the DOL paperwork. Hope Brissette made a motion to have Deb Wright contact the DOL to amend the reason for termination of the previous director as the evaluation, not the CAP. This motion, seconded by Laura Senes did not pass, with a vote of 2 in favor, 3 opposed and 3 abstentions.

Compensation for Emily Zervas and Samantha Maskell was discussed. Emily Zervas and Samantha Maskell request the whole board approve any action items they are being asked to do. Also, that Trustees should send any director related emails to both Emily Zervas and Samantha Maskell. Emily Zervas and Samantha Maskell suggest a 15% pay raise and 2 days vacation/month as compensation for the increased work load in taking on director’s duties, retroactive to September 18th. They also suggest Mary Van Hartesveldt and Ellen Allman each receive a 10% pay raise. The Finance Committee will look into this further and report at the December 10th meeting.

11. Trustees’ Comments– Carolyn Frisa would like to see this agenda item be consistent going forward.

12. Motion to adjourn made by Paige Pietrzak, seconded by Deb Wright, passed with 7 in favor, none opposed at 7:52p.m.

These minutes respectfully submitted by Laura Senes on November 24, 2013.

Letter from Ray Massucco

Dear Trustees,

If the leadership of the Board of trustees had not already done enough damage, they have now managed to totally dismantle any support from the Municipal Manager, and in all likelihood, the Selectboard. It is inconceivable to me that they can be allowed to continue to operate as petty tyrants without authorization from the full board taken at a duly warned meeting.

When was Deb Wright authorized to dictate that Sam Maskell and Emily Zervas [whom she incorrectly characterizes as “…the RFPL appointed interim directors …”] could not continue to work with the Municipal Manager to efficiently and productively orchestrate the re-installation of the library? It appears to me that Chip, Sam and Emily were simply trying to coordinate the efforts by the Town to help minimize any additional costs to the Library. I am not aware of any board action that authorized Deb or Jan to exercise any direct control over either Sam or Emily. We do not have a library director, nor any interim directors. Neither Jan nor Deb are authorized to act in that capacity. Only the board as a whole has any authority at this point. I have spoken to both Emily and Sam personally and confirmed that neither of them feel as though they have been managed or controlled in any manner by Chip; in fact, they are grateful for his practical and accessible assistance during and after the move.

As a direct result of Deb’s and Jan’s interference, we may have lost the use of the Highway Department at no cost to the library. That is absolutely unacceptable and should be condemned by the rest of the board. Jan’s accusations to Chip regarding the Highway Department are absurd and her willingness to make totally unfounded charges demonstrate complete unfitness to lead the board of trustees. Perhaps Jan or Deb will offer to pay the costs that may now be charged to the library by the Town.

Jan’s email to Chip of November 7, 2013 is equally disturbing [she also appears to be unaware that Sam and Emily are not the “interim library directors.” She makes the unequivocal statement that Celina “…was terminated in part for taking unauthorized salary increases…” when there was no such finding of fact to support that in the board vote. If Celina did not have a legal cause of action against Jan for defamation previously, I believe she does now. She is clearly not speaking for all trustees when she says that “…the Library Trustees are ready – no, eager – to respond to the State Department of Labor (DOL).” If the DOL allows the unemployment filing to be reopened, only the entire board will be authorized to re-submit a response.

Unfortunately, I will be in Boston at the time of today’s board meeting and unable to attend. However, I would urge the board to take two actions:

1. Pass a resolution condemning and censuring Jan and Deb for their unreasonable interference with a process that had been working quite smoothly between Sam, Emily and Chip and for acting outside the scope of any authority granted to them by the entire board of trustees.

2. Remove Jan as Chair and Deb as Vice-Chair from the board of trustees, and elect other trustees to those positions. Their conduct in operating independently and without board authority repeatedly is totally out of control at this point and cannot be condoned. If the board continues to turn a blind eye to their conduct, they are implicit in their support of such rogue behavior.

If the board fails to act decisively and soon, there is a genuine risk that the end result will be the dismantling of the library governance structure and the library will become just another town department under the direct control of the Municipal Manager. There is already a movement to do just that.

Please enter a copy of this email into the minutes for today’s meeting in its entirety. Since Jan had previously informed me that she would no longer inform me of meetings, agendas, etc, I do not know what is on the agenda today other than the informational attendance of Steve Ankuda and a preliminary discussion of the open library director’s position. Here is the text from the email which Jan sent me on October 25, 2013. As the chair, one of her obligations is to inform other board members of the date, time and place of any meetings. There is no requirement that she may limit her communications to email [former trustee, David Buckley, did not have email and was informed by phone or hard copy, hand delivered].

“Hi Ray — Got your e-mail. Since e-mail is the way notices of Board meetings, agendas, etc. are warned, I will expect you to check in regularly by phone? mail? or whatever method suits you to keep yourself up to date on what is going on with the Library Board of Trustees.

As requested, I’m now removing you from the distribution list.

Jan M-L, Cha

P.S. As I wrote you earlier today, I’m trying to set up a special trustees’ meeting for next week ,and I asked about your availability. Since you have not responded, I’m letting you know there will be a meeting, but I do not know when it will be as yet. You can call or write to find out.


Unlike whichever board member included the media on their communications with Chip, I have not, so they will not be aware of this unless they show up at the meeting this afternoon.

Ray Massucco
L. Raymond Massucco, Esq.
Massucco & Velto, P.C.
90 Westminster Street
Bellows Falls VT 05101-1537
802.463.3303 ext 101 Voice
800.726.3203 Toll Free
802.463.2222 Fax
[email protected] Page 1 of 2 Nov 12, 2013 09:15:11AM MST
Trustees accuse municipal manager of abusing power
By DOMENIC POLI / Reformer Staff Brattleboro Reformer

The municipal manager has fired back at the Rockingham Free Public Library trustee chairwoman, who says the manager abused his power while overseeing the renovation of the newly reopened facility at 65 Westminster St.

Willis D. “Chip” Stearns II replied to an e-mail in which Chairwoman Janice Mitchell-Love claims Stearns overstepped his authority by managing the library’s interim directors after Célina Houlné was terminated from the position in September. Mitchell-Love also suggests the library’s board of trustees has not been kept adequately updated on the renovation project and has learned second-hand about important aspects of it.

Stearns apologized for any confusion but said assisting the interim library directors should not be perceived as managing them.

“I am sorry again, the Municipal Manager does not work for the RFPL Trustees, though I have been answering questions/attending meetings as requested by RFPL Trustees and staff,” Stearns wrote in his reply. “My intentions continue to be for cooperation with all requests to best of my abilities.” He also said he never abused his authority, as the library is owned by the town and governance of the library was taken over by the Rockingham Selectboard after general contractor Baybutt Construction failed to uphold its end of its contract when it ran into financial problems.

Rockingham Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee defended Stearns and said he never overstepped his authority.

“The library is owned by the town. The day-to-day operations of the library are handled by the library trustees,” he told the Reformer. “But we had to take over the construction when things went south. “We would never be anywhere near where we are today if it wasn’t for Chip,” he continued. “He’s been trying to turn it back over to the trustees but there has been no direction from the library trustees that I’m aware of.”

MacPhee also said going over budget was probably inevitable because of the issue with Baybutt, which had been hired by the Selectboard but had its contract terminated after not paying its subcontractors for work already done. MacPhee said items were dropped from the initial wishlist in order to save money. Stearns previously told the Reformer custom-made metal shelving is still needed to make the renovations complete, and MacPhee defended the decision to get new shelves, saying it would have cost nearly as much to reinstall the older, less attractive shelving.

Houlné, who was fired in September following allegations of misconduct from the trustees, also said Stearns always worked very well with library staff and never crossed any sort of line.

“He was a really good listener and he was very responsive,” she said. “We didn’t know what would happen with Baybutt. He had to figure out a way to save (money) but that doesn’t mean that you don’t still run into unforeseen problems.”

She also said it is crazy to suggest Stearns tries to boss around library staff or town employees. Mitchell-Love had also been disappointed the Rockingham Highway Department was used on the project without that information being given to the trustees. She said she was shocked to hear Stearns tell the Rockingham Selectboard on Tuesday that he had authorized 381 hours of highway department labor to assist library staff, which she says will add to the renovation project’s overrun, which Stearns said has reached $151,734.73

“I was also shocked to hear that you have exceeded your original deficit estimate by over 300 percent — and counting! I am sure that the taxpayers will want a detailed and accurate accounting of this. Unfortunately, you will be reporting next Wednesday in the joint Selectboard/Library Trustees meeting on monies already spent that you did not correctly forecast,” she wrote, referring to the meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Rockingham Town Hall Lower Theatre. “Perhaps this would not have happened if you had kept the Library Trustees in the loop; we had, among other cost-saving measures, volunteers lined up to help move.”

She told the Reformer she is simply trying to protect town taxpayers, who will have to foot the bill for the overrun.

MacPhee said things still needed to be done at the library and Stearns was using some of town employees to do them.

Stearns, in his reply, took responsibility for his use of the highway staff and said the department’s workers have not been expensed against the renovation, though that may happen in the future. He also said it was disheartening to feel such ungratefulness toward the workers and volunteers who helped get the library reopened on Friday, Nov. 1.

For her part, Mitchell-Love said she is dismayed over what she perceived as a lack of intention to return the governance of the library to the trustees and over having no control of the accumulation of bills. “This is my job and I am trying to do right by the taxpayers,” she said. “The deficit is three times what it was supposed to be.”

The library trustees have a meeting scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in the library’s meeting room today. Domenic Poli can be reached at [email protected], or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.