I am compelled to comment on Mr. Love's recent column ("Library board deserves better," Sept. 19).
I do not wish to try the patience of readers by giving a detailed rebuttal of all of Mr. Love's accusations. But let us start with some transparency -- not a word one readily associates with the Board of Trustees of the Rockingham Free Public Library in recent months. Mr. Love is the husband of the Chair of the Library Board of Trustees; I also note that I am the husband of the Chair of The Friends of Library, a 501(c)(3) organization whose purpose is to support the library, primarily by raising funds for it. My wife is also a candidate to fill the trustee vacancy that has recently arisen resulting from Mr. David Buckley's resignation from the board.
Mr.Love refers to "the care and research" undertaken by the library board before taking its decision to close the library building during its renovation and to transfer library services to an alternative location. However, before the trustees took this decision, the board had not determined the availability nor selected a temporary alternative location for the library nor had it ascertained the extra costs resulting from such a relocation. The costs, of course, will have to be financed by the taxpayer. Where was the "care and research" by trustees on these two obviously critically important factors?
Some weeks after taking their ill considered decision to close the library building, the trustees were provided by the library staff, whose director had advised the board against closing the library building, with data that indicated that costs could reach in excess of $7,000 for the move. The costs incurred to date have already reached about $4,500 and we are still counting. There are yet more costs to be incurred from moving the library back into the renovated building.
Mr. Love refers to a recent decision by the Selectboard to fill ("populate" he says) a previous vacant seat on the board of trustees. He refers to a "more than century long tradition" under which the Selectboard has gone along with the trustees' recommendations to fill a vacancy on their board. However, he conveniently ignores the fact that it was the Library Board of Trustees who themselves first breached this tradition only a matter of a few weeks earlier. Under an erroneous interpretation of the law, the trustees selected and "appointed" their own candidate to the board of trustees without any prior consultation with the Selectboard; the trustees went as far as to publicly announce a meeting to "Recognize the new addition to the Board of Trustees." Of course the trustees' decision could not be implemented, because under the law it is the Selectboard which has the exclusive authority to fill a mid-term vacancy. The point is that one cannot pick and choose when to honor tradition, observing it when it suits one's purposes and ignoring it, as did the trustees, when inconvenient.
Mr. Love implies that Mr. Ray Massucco was appointed, not on his merits, but because of "friends" on the Selectboard, despite the fact that Mr. Massucco was an eminently qualified candidate. He is well known locally as an accomplished attorney, he served previously over eight years as a library trustee,including at least one term as chairman of the board, and is most highly respected in the local community.
Finally, there remains Mr. Love's criticism of the town's accounting procedures for library expenditures. If there is any accounting problem, we can expect the independent auditors to identify it in their audit report for last fiscal year which is due out shortly.
Mr. Love says that the library board bypassed the library director to get all the detailed accounting information. The trustees should not be involving themselves in this kind of detail. The board should direct its attention to policy matters leaving the library director to conduct day-to-day operations without interference. This is one of several examples where the board has inappropriately tried to micromanage library activities.
Thus it is not the library trustees who "deserve better." It is the Selectboard, the former library director and the good people of Rockingham who deserve much, very much, better from their Library Board of Trustees.
Arnold J. Clift is a resident of Rockingham.