BELLOWS FALLS -- A Rockingham Free Public Library trustee who attended Tuesday's meeting of the library director search committee rebutted claims she said insults her professionalism.
Elayne Clift, accompanied by her husband Arnold, read from a prepared statement during the public-comment portion of the meeting in the library's third-floor meeting room and then requested her letter be entered into the official record. Clift responded to a claim of tainting the interview process she said Trustee Chairwoman Janice Mitchell-Love made about her at a search committee meeting last month.
"It has come to my attention that at the Jan. 21 meeting of the Search Committee the Chair alleged that I had stated at a Board of Trustees meeting that I would call candidates interviewing for the library director's position to warn them about the existing lawsuit from the former director and ‘tell them not to apply,'" Clift said. "This false characterization of what I actually said impugns my integrity and therefore I must correct the record. I did not say that I would call any candidates to tell them about the lawsuit, and tell them not to apply."
The search committee is tasked with whittling down the list of candidates applying to replace terminated Library Director Célina Houlné, who is suing the trustees to contest her termination, which occurred in September.
Clift quoted herself asking at the Jan. 21 meeting if applicants would be told about the lawsuit and Mitchell-Love said she thought it is "not appropriate to tell candidates" because Town Attorney Stephen Ankuda has advised the only outcome of a lawsuit would be monetary and the only way she could be reinstated is by being voted back by the trustees. It is at this point that Clift responded, "Well, I do, and I will be telling them."
Clift said Tuesday she wanted to make it clear that she meant she would tell candidates about the lawsuit only during the their face-to-face interviews with the trustees.
"It never occurred to me that what I said could be interpreted as doing something so unprofessional as to call or otherwise contact candidates and tell them not to apply," she said. "I was relieved to learn that the Search Committee agreed that finalists for the position of library director will be receiving a written statement informing them of the pending lawsuit -- although I would like to know who is authoring the note, who is sending it out, and when -- which can be discussed at the next regular board meeting."
She also wanted to mention she has requested to see all applicants' un-redacted curriculum vitaes, which serve as overview of a person's experience and qualifications. She said all trustees are entitled to them but she had not received any as of Tuesday morning.
Joel Love, Mitchell-Love's husband, then stood up to say he is concerned with Clift's level of professionalism after she allegedly refused to honor a public records request he made. On Monday, Love sent Clift a request for all e-mails she sent or received from Amy Howlett, a consultant with the Vermont Department of Libraries, regarding the Rockingham Free Public Library since the beginning of December 2013. This request includes any e-mails Clift or Howlett were copied (or CC'd) on. Love told Clift that Vermont law requires her to adhere to his request and it is illegal to delete or destroy e-mails that pertain to library business.
Clift and Love exchanged e-mails, which were also sent to the Reformer. Clift then e-mailed Love her original letter to Howlett and State Librarian Martha Reid. She told Love to request Howlett's reply directly from Howlett.
Love shot back that Clift's response was "neither complete nor accurate." Love then expanded the scope of his request to include an electronic copy of all e-mails regarding the Rockingham library from Dec. 1, 2013, to Feb. 3.
"By the way, you just broke Open Meeting Law by copying most of the Trustees (of your e-mail reply). And to think that you have had training on this and have hounded other Trustees and filed formal complaints with the State's Attorney General for smaller infractions -- shame on you!" he wrote. "If I forward this to the Attorney General then (unlike you) I will include the entire e-mail trail -- in its entirety rather than the way that you do, as evidenced by the information you provided to the Attorney General (incomplete) and the information you just sent me (incomplete again). You can't use the argument that you did not know the rules, since you certainly do know them."
Clift replied to say the library's board of trustees, as the public agency involved, is the official custodian of any cyber traffic regarding the library. She said the trustees have agreed that all information produced or acquired in the course of the library's business should be held at a special e-mail depository at the library and a librarian can help him access the site.
Love said at Tuesday's meeting Clift has ignored previous public records requests and that he has contacted his attorney about the matter. He also accused Clift of taking statements out of context to discredit his wife and said he personally heard Clift say she would tell applicants not to apply for the job.
The meeting was held to review a draft list of questions job applicants will be asked during the interview process. Questions discussed included ones about experience with grant proposal writing, working with a library's board of trustees and how to address "bruised feelings" among trustees, librarians and members of the public. Trustee Pat Fowler called the third one the "elephant in the room" because of the fall-out resulting from Houlné's termination.
During the meeting, Arnold Clift and Trustee Hope Brissette, both of whom sat in the audience, thanked the search committee members for their time and commitment. Arnold Clift said he was impressed with the way the committee's meeting are conducted.
Michael Roche, a consultant with the Vermont Department of Libraries, attended the meeting to fill in for Howlett, who had a death in the family. He provided insight for the search committee and told its members that through an interview process, they are investigating their own needs and desires for the job.
"The important thing is, what are you looking for in a director?" he said, adding that the job description should be exciting and challenging in order to attract people who want a job with those attributes.
Joe Brissette said he was, as a private citizen, recording the meeting via video camera in the back of the room. He said the recording had no connection to FACTV, which documents some meetings.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.