Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

State Official: Meeting where Red Creek Library Director was fired, Illegal

The head of the State Committee on Open Government says former Red Creek Librarian Allen Tompkins was fired during what appears to be an illegal executive session in which no information was kept about the vote that terminated his employment.

Bob Freeman is in charge of the state agency that keeps track of the open meetings and freedom of information laws. He said the vote isn’t valid if no tally was kept on Dec. 3 of which of the nine library trustees voted yes or no to Allen’s termination. The 5-4 vote was done on paper, without any of the trustees having to indicate how he or she voted. Freeman also said if there was no motion to go into an executive session, then that’s not valid either.

Tompkins, who was fired at the Dec. 3 meeting, said he is asking the board to reinstate him, and because of Freeman’s opinion, will consider hiring an attorney if they don’t. The library’s Friends group has also collected signatures on a petition asking that Tompkins be given his job back.

Tompkins said he was fired because five members of the board did not like his reaction to his accusations that they were trying to micromanage him and accused him of having anger management issues. He went through an anger management program at the request of the board, but then was fired anyway.

In dispute are the roles and responsibilities of board trustees, which include allowing the library director to manage the day to day operations of the library.

A Red Creek native, Tompkins has been library director for six years and recently shepherded the library through a $100,000 expansion project. On Nov. 12, Cassie Guthrie, executive director of the Pioneer Library System of which all Wayne County libraries are a part, did a presentation outlining who is responsible for what in the governance of libraries.

At that same meeting Trustee John Lester said “the board did an evaluation of its director’s job performance and he was unanimously given satisfactory scores by all of the trustees.”

Lester, a trustee since 2010, resigned after Tompkins was fired. He and Tompkins share a home.

Vivian Stevens, who is president of the board, could not be reached for comment for this story. Another board member, Lance Powell, declined to comment and referred all questions to Stevens. The only response from the board regarding Tompkins’ firing was a letter in a local paper that said it was one of “many unexpected curves.”
“It was not easy for the Board of Trustees to see our Director leave, (sic) he played a big role in our expansion. We are currently in the process of interviewing potential candidates for the Director position. In the meantime please know that the Red Creek Free Library remains on track with our goals.”

Several library patrons, however, do not agree. Also in letters to the local paper, June Smith asked the board to reinstate Tompkins and Charles Itzin said the board should be ashamed of how they treated him.

by Louise Hoffman Broach