CONWAY — The trustees of Conway Public Library during a special meeting Wednesday voted to terminate Kate Belisle of Effingham from her post as technology librarian during an hourlong hearing that began around 10 a.m.
According to Library Director David Smolen, she was hired last Dec. 11 and was still a probationary employee who was suspended in May.
In an unusual move, Belisle opted to have her termination process dealt with in public at the trustees’ June 17 meeting. Trustees essentially continued it to Wednesday morning.
At the outset of the meeting, Belisle was told by the library's attorney Peter Malia of Hastings of Malia of Fryeburg that trustees were considering removing her under RSA 202-A:17 Employees; Removal. It says, in part: “No employee of a public library shall be discharged or removed from office except by the library trustees for malfeasance, misfeasance, or inefficiency in office, or incapacity or unfitness to perform the employee’s duties. Prior to the discharge or removal of any such employee, a statement of the grounds and reasons therefor shall be prepared by the library trustees, and signed by a majority of the board.”
Malia added that Belisle was given notice and a statement of reasons on June 17. After that Malia, suggested that Smolen state a summary of reasons for the removal — something Belisle challenged, saying the trustees were supposed to articulate the reasons for her firing.
"This letter could have been longer, but I kept it to one page," said Smolen.
Smolen reread a statement that he read at the June 17 meeting. It said there had been multiple complaints about her behavior toward staff; that she displayed an unwillingness to follow procedures; that she checked out items to a person who isn’t a patron; she checked out the library internet hot spot knowing someone was waiting for it and that under her watch, inter-library loans have taken an unacceptably long time.
"What we have seen is a problem with interpersonal relations and also failure to follow procedures," said Smolen. "We have numerous problems basically. We want to part ways and everyone move on."
Belisle said she felt Smolen was under the impression he could fire her during the probationary period and he did ask for her resignation.
"He said 'you don't fit in here, you will never fit in here,'" said Belisle who accused Smolen of gossiping about her with one of her former coworkers. "He told me if I didn't resign it would be in an open hearing where everyone would hear all about me and that he would win."
Belisle said she didn't expect to prevail at Wednesday's hearing.
"I want to make sure there's a clear record for next steps," said Belisle, explaining her desire to have the meeting in public.
Belisle said she thought she had already addressed some of the conflicts that she had with other staff members. For example, she apologized for a "short tone" with another staff member.
"Not everyone gets along with everyone all the time," said Belisle. "It's a matter if you deal with it like an adult."
Belisle said she felt she was denied grievance procedures to deal with the conflicts that came up.
As for the accusation that she checked out materials to a non-patron, she said that card holders can authorize someone else to check out a book their behalf.
"There's at least one member of the board who has had a spouse pick up materials checked out for them on their card," said Belisle. "This is not an outrageous thing."
She also said the library was a part of the Northern New Hampshire Library Cooperative. She said the books that she checked out was for a Tamworth patron under that cooperative arrangement.
But Smolen said Belisle "totally violated our policies."
As for the hot spot, said Belisle, she used it to do a stonewall mapping program in Tamworth. She had a hold on it for six weeks and thought it was available.
Asked about the interlibrary loans' processing speed, Belisle said there were no metrics for how long it's supposed to take. She said that the interlibrary loan program has been hobbled by van breakdowns and lack of a drivers.
"The only one that I'm aware of that took months was one initiated before I even started, from a library in New York," said Belisle.
The trustees looked at each of the reasons the law provides to terminate a library employee.
Belisle said she is planning to seek judicial review of her situation and expressed a desire to volunteer at the Cook Library in Tamworth.
"I'm a little too avant-garde for Conway," said Belisle.