By Daymond Steer
CONWAY — Two Conway Public Library employees unleashed a barrage of criticism on their boss, library director Tara Thomas, at a heated meeting last Thursday.
Four librarians have filed a grievance against Thomas and the trustees after a proposed staff reorganization threatened the librarians’ jobs. The grievance letter states that the librarians were subjected to “ongoing unprofessional, hostile and abusive treatment” by Thomas, which “culminated” with the proposed reorganization that was announced on Sept. 17.
The reorganization plan has since been rescinded.
At last Thursday’s meeting, the librarians’ lawyer Ed Alkalay called for trustees to put Thomas on administrative leave. Alkalay also submitted more of the librarians’ complaints into the record. Alkalay gave trustees 10 days to respond to the supplemented grievance but he also urged them to work quickly.
“There are four librarians, Olga Morrill, Janis Minshull, Betty Parker and Kate Darlington, who are miserable,” said Alkalay. “They have been miserable for a long time.”
Trustees made no decisions in public, but they had two non-public sessions last Thursday night.
Minshull and Morrill forcefully described some of their complaints against Thomas before an audience of about 50 people in the library’s Ham Community Room.
“I don’t know how you think we can come into work and feel respect for Tara,” said Minshull. “Why do we have to go through all this? Can’t we realize what’s wrong and fix it?”
Minshull accused Thomas of frequently being late to work, neglecting to keep the book collection current, failing to keep the library facility clean, failing to pay vendors on time and using tablecloth covered in dog hair at a library display in Northway Bank.
“There’s nothing professional going on here,” said Minshull.
Morrill said she agreed with what Minshull had said. Morrill waved documents in the air as she spoke. She said the documents outlined more complaints against Thomas.
“She is not a professional,” said Morrill. “As I said last week, she is a programmer who lucked into a director’s job.”
Further, Morrill accused Thomas of “immature uncontrolled behavior” and of having an “inability” to manage staff. Morrill also accused Thomas of micromanaging her programs and making unnecessary expenditures.
Trustee Sarah Charles cut Morrill off by saying Thursday’s meeting “wasn’t the venue” to attack Thomas.
Earlier in the meeting, Alkalay and trustee Ted Sares had a heated exchange about the new information that Alkalay wanted to submit. Alkalay’s original grievance letter is dated Sept. 24.
Sares told Alkalay that more information can’t be added once a grievance is started. Further, Sares said the trustees were prepared to respond the the grievance on Oct. 5, which was the day after last Thursday’s meeting.
“It’s too late,” said Sares. “You have filed a grievance. You have used up your procedural time.”
That caught Alkalay off guard because he had anticipated that there would be more of a back and forth between the trustees and the librarians before the trustees rendered an opinion.
“I am containing my anger right now,” Alkalay replied to Sares.
Chair Linda Fox Phillips broke up the ensuing shouting match.
“Gentlemen, indoor voices please!” said Fox Phillips.
The trustees eventually agreed to accept the new information in exchange for the 10-day extension to respond.
Alkalay said the trustees had not attempted to get more information about the grievance from the librarians or their legal counsel.
Charles said they are investigating but they can’t discuss what they are doing.
“I am very committed to making this right,” said Charles.
Patron Andy Davis, of Albany, also called on the trustees to put Thomas on administrative leave so that the library could function while trustees investigate complaints against Thomas.
via Attorney: Librarians are ‘miserable’ working under Thomas.