BELLOWS FALLS -- The trustees of the Rockingham Free Public Library voted along familiar lines Tuesday to accept the new contract of previously terminated Library Director Célina Houlné.
Houlné was hired back to her position by a 6-2 vote in the library's top-floor meeting room 10 months after she was controversially fired by a previous board of trustees. She signed the approved contract toward the end of the trustees' meeting and told the Reformer she will be back to work on Monday.
"I am so excited and so happy," she said with a smile. The library will be closed Monday for a staff development workshop.
The specifics of the contract include an agreement that it shall last until June 30, 2016, at which point it will automatically renew for one-year terms. Also, a vote to terminate will require a super majority of at least six library trustees.
Houlné was let go as the library director by the facility's board of trustees on Sept. 19, 2013, and the termination sparked outrage throughout much of the community. Many members of the public believed there was a vendetta against Houlné, but former Library Trustee Chairwoman Janice Mitchell-Love and others have insisted there was no ulterior motive for the firing, which Mitchell-Love said was based on an evaluation by the trustees' personnel committee.
Mitchell-Love, then-Vice Chairwoman Deborah Wright and trustees Hope Brissette, Paige Pietrzak and Laura Senes voted to oust Houlné, while Carolyn Frisa, Pat Fowler and Ray Massucco voted against the motion to terminate. Trustee David Buckley was unable to attend that meeting and was soon replaced by Elayne Clift, a staunch Houlné supporter. Pietrzak has since resigned from the board and Wright lost a bid for re-election in March.
The dismissal prompted a grassroots effort to get a new board of trustees and in March town residents elected a unified slate of candidates that consisted of Massucco, David Gould, Doreen Aldrich and Carol Blackwood. Gould was soon chosen as chairman and Frisa is now the vice chairwoman.
Houlné has always maintained that the evaluation that served as the basis for her termination was "incredibly one-sided and fundamentally inaccurate." She was granted a public hearing -- spread out over two Thursdays in October -- and told trustees the rumors that once circulated about her, including one that she had an improper relationship with a board member and another that she secretly gave herself a pay raise, were false. In regards to the supposed inappropriate hike in pay, she said all staff members got a 3 percent raise that was built into the library's operating budget. She said all staff raises must be, and were, approved by a full board of trustees.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.