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Sun., Dec. 21
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Massena supervisor urges library board to work together

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MASSENA - Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he wants the Massena Public Library Board to work together or the town council may have to intervene.

Mr. Gray expressed disappointment Wednesday at recent events at the library. Board member Lisa Bero disclosed misconduct charges Vice President Richard Geiser had pressed against her Tuesday night following the library board’s monthly meeting.

The charges allege Ms. Bero had violated executive session confidentiality rules by discussing the replacement of Executive Director Lynn Fountain in a meeting with employees.

The charges also allege Ms. Bero was involved in a petition to select Children’s Librarian Elaine Dunne-Thayer as Ms. Fountain’s replacement and accused Ms. Bero of an inability to function with other board members. The board will conduct a hearing on Tuesday to determine the truth of the charges and may suspend or expel Ms. Bero.

Mr. Gray said he wished the library could keep its focus on serving Massena and less on employee petitions and internal strife.

“We’re going to spend time at the library fooling around with this stuff? Give me a break,” Mr. Gray said. “I would hope the differences can be resolved before it becomes necessary for the town to step in and take over at the library.

“I don’t want to nullify the library board. That’s not the intent here,” Mr. Gray said. “If the library board can’t function then they’ve nullified themselves and the town would have to step in.”

Mr. Gray also took exception to Ms. Bero saying the library board was corrupt and calling for the New York State Attorney General’s Office to investigate it.

“The town of Massena is far from perfect, but I can assure her and the public that the town of Massena is not a criminal enterprise,” Mr. Gray said.

“It’s unfortunate things have descended to this level at the library board,” Mr. Gray said. “The library exists only because the town allows it to exist and funds it. It is the town library, and the town controls what happens at the library.”

Board President John Acton said a town council takeover was unlikely. The board is working through some internal issues right now, but will become more functional as new members join, he said.

The board voted to approve Michael Gleason Tuesday night to fill a vacancy created by Pamela Ouimet’s resignation. The board must still fill a vacancy created when Barb DeLine resigned for personal reasons.

“I’m not too worried because the board is functioning, kind of at a pace I’d like to speed up,” he said. “We’re certainly not close to that.”

Ms. Dunne-Thayer, who has worked at the library for 12 years, said she appreciated so many employees and patrons expressing their support for her candidacy to replace Ms. Fountain.

Many employees believe the board should have chosen her for the director’s position last year instead of Ms. Fountain and suspect out-of-town candidates may have an edge over her again this time.

Staff believe the board resents them for organizing under Teamsters Local 687 last year, Ms. Dunne-Thayer said. And some employees resent the board for suspecting them of theft last year, she said.

The board required staff to attend a meeting and sign a theft memorandum from their employee manual after a piece of scrap wood and paperback books went missing last year. The board later found the theft suspicions raised by Mr. Geiser to be unfounded.

“It’s sort of an us against them feeling,” Ms. Dunne-Thayer said. “There’s a sense of dread if we see a board member entering the building.”

Ms. Dunne-Thayer also said it was unfortunate the library and town boards appeared to be working so closely together.

“They seem to be working in tandem, and they should be two separate boards,” she said. “They’re not meant to be one in the same.”

Mr. Acton said the two boards must work together to pay the bills and negotiate a union contract for the employees.

“I would call it collaborating. I wouldn’t call it sleeping together,” he said.

Mr. Acton said the board put the theft accusations to bed a year ago. He also personally did not have any issue with the employees organizing.

“If there’s any hard feelings, it’s not on the board’s side of it,” he said. “There’s no hard feelings over that.”

Ms. Bero said she did not regret bringing issues within the library board to light in order to show the public some of its problems.

“I’m not going to back down on what I’ve done,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Ms. Dunne-Thayer suggested the rest of the board was retaliating against Ms. Bero for speaking her mind.

“You’re asking questions they don’t want to hear,” she said. “We’ve done nothing wrong, and we expect to be treated in a professional manner.”

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