The Saratoga Sun -

CCLSB director resigns

 


As of July 18, a fractious Carbon County Library System Board (CCLSB) will have one more position to fill. Rather than continue working in what she deemed a “hostile work environment,” CCLSB director Bobbie Morgan tendered her resignation effective that date at a tense special meeting of the board held 6 p.m. June 24 in Rawlins.

Morgan, who has served as director for a little over two months, submitted her resignation in absentia through a letter read aloud at the June 24 meeting by CCLSB chair Joann Whitson.

The meeting, called by CCLSB members Joyce Menke, Tom Callison and Gail Lorick with less than 24 hours notice, was held in violation of the CCLSB’s bylaws and Wyoming Open Meeting statutes. Article IV Section 4 of the CCLSB bylaws states, in part, “All members and the public must be notified at least one week in advance of the time, place and specific business of the special meeting. Notice of special meetings shall be given in accordance with W. S. 16-4-404 (the open meeting law).”

The resignation signaled the continuation of chaos that has consumed the library system over a months-long budgetary battle between the CCLSB and Carbon County Commissioners. With tax revenues down, the commissioners sharply decreased funding to the library system for Fiscal Year 2017.

As director, Morgan drew up several different operating budgets at the commissioners’ behest, using financing estimates from the commissioners that fluctuated almost daily. Commissioner Sue Jones, in particular, found the outcomes of these budgets unacceptable because they would have left most of the system’s branch libraries either closed or operating at radically reduced hours.

Saying that savings could be found by reducing staff at the Rawlins location, Jones worked a budget out on her own, then pushed that budget through the CCLSB at a special meeting held June 20. Though board members were unsure exactly what figures they had voted on minutes after passing an intentionally ambiguous “bottom-line budget” at that meeting, it momentarily appeared a shaky truce would hold.

Three days later, that truce was already coming undone and the hasty numbers were looking less and less sturdy.

In a June 23 interview on KTGA, Morgan, citing a list of six employees who had quit or been laid off, said that under the new budget “our service standards will be dropping.” Whitson, who was also on-air during that interview, later said “There were some negative statements which I could not refute on the radio.” Whitson said she spoke with Morgan afterwards about the negative inflection of her comments, but did not dispute their accuracy.

Menke expressed frustration over learning about the resignation of the libraries’ bookkeeper “over the airways.” Menke called the special meeting in order to discuss yet another shift in personnel and “board media relations.” During a section of the meeting reserved for the media relations discussion, Whitson said “the chairperson is the spokesperson for the board, and thus talks to the media.” With Morgan’s resignation still reverberating in the room, Menke, Callison and Lorick had little commentary to add, though Callison promised he would later write a statement.

In her letter, Morgan reserved strong-worded rebukes for what she saw as unprofessionalism on the parts of several board members and commissioners. “Hearing library board members Joyce Menke and Tom Callison and County Commissioners Sue Jones and Lindy Glode degrading staff contributions and value to the library in public statements … has created a situation that is unhealthy for all,” she said. Morgan furthermore called the last-minute budget championed by Jones at the June 20 meeting “unbalanced.”

In the letter, Morgan also said that she felt personally disrespected by these individuals noting “I was hired for the specialized knowledge that I have, but not afforded the courtesy of having (my) proposals listened to and considered.” Morgan described a situation in which Callison and Menke undermined her authority from within, while Jones usurped her budgetary jurisdiction from the outside, and said she felt that she could not effectively continue as director under such circumstances.

At the June 24 meeting, which was attended by Carbon County Attorney Ashley Davis, Callison vigorously disputed having disrespected library employees and Menke said that had not been her intentions. Joanne Connors, who began working as the Carbon County Library System’s youth services manger three weeks ago, described a different situation. Connors said she was highly educated literacy specialist and felt “demeaned” by a board member’s description of her position as “a storyteller.” In private, several current and former library workers said they shared Connors’ sense that Menke and Callison disparaged their work.

“Who else is still here?” Whitson asked while trying to tally up the remaining employees on the rapidly shrinking library payroll. Still lacking an itemized budget, divided from within over a way forward, and now lacking a director to navigate the tough financial straits, the Carbon County Library System is truly in distress.

Incoming board members Cindy Bloomquist and Ellie Behrmann (replacing Julie Evans and Gail Lorick) will have their hands full immediately at their first meeting on the board 5 p.m. July 6 in Rawlins. So did Morgan during her first days on the job ten weeks ago.

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