By Gail Marvel
MONTROSE-Unbeknownst to the community, the Montrose Regional Library District (MRLD) has gone through a summer of turmoil. Issues kept within the MRLD family and only recently revealed call into question the District’s commitment to transparency just as they prepare to ask voters for a mil levy increase.
For example, it was only recently discovered that on May 7, 2015 Library Director Paul Paladino gave 90 days’ notice and tendered his resignation. The condensed version of the situation is taken from the MRLD official board minutes and from a conversation with Paul Paladino. A staff complaint bypassed the director and went directly to the board of trustees to which director Paladino took offence, “Paul said he felt that action and the continued insistence by the Board on investigating the claim without first turning it over to Paul to see if it could be resolved through proper procedures showed a lack of confidence in Paul’s ability to manage the staff of the District. Several members of the Board maintained they had confidence in Paul and didn’t see their actions as undermining the authority of Paul as Director” (May 8th minutes). The MRLD President asked director Paladino to reconsider his resignation.
On May 15th Vice-President Garvey chaired a meeting and stated the purpose was, “…to draft a questionnaire for employees to use to provide us with an assessment of the work situation at the library.” However when staff member Amy McBride said, “…her understand[ing] was that this meeting [was] to address a mid-term evaluation of the Director.” Garvey rejected her understanding of the purpose of the meeting and reiterated that the meeting was about an employee survey. Bruce Grigsby stated, “…the resignation has not been accepted” (minutes).
For two to three weeks MRLD President Bobbie Sneed, Vice-President Tim Garvey and director Paladino met together to resolve the resignation issue.
During the May 21st meeting the board went into executive session to, “…discuss personnel matters, specifically, the status of the library director.” Upon exiting the executive session a motion was made and seconded to, “…offer counter proposal to Paul as was developed in executive session. Motion passed. Paul officially accepted verbal proposal and the Board indicated their appreciation of his acceptance.”
It is confirmed that this verbal proposal dealt with the withdrawal of Paul’s resignation. However, there is no statement in the official minutes that the resignation was withdrawn. The vagueness and lack of specificity of the proposal in the MRLD minutes is of concern.
Sometime after May 21st, trustees Linda Gann and Bruce Grigsby abruptly tendered their resignations. In all three cases the resignations were not tendered during meetings, but were submitted to MRLD Board President Bobbie Sneed. Paladino resigned in person, Gann and Grigsby resigned through email.
It should be noted that unless excused from a meeting, the minutes for the MRLD board meetings are taken by Executive Director Paul Paladino. The minutes then go to board secretary Anne Gulliksen for her purview, who in turn submits them to the board for approval.
A glaring omission in the approved board minutes for June 18th is the resignation of trustees Linda Gann and Bruce Grigsby. The only hint at the departure of Gann and Grigsby is tucked under Committee Assignments, “It was decided the remaining Trustees would just fill in committee assignments as necessary, usually functioning as a committee of the whole.” While Paladino is given praise for his service and encouraged to withdraw his resignation, it does not appear that Gann and Grigsby received any such consideration.
Succeeding minutes up to and including Aug. 20th have no mention of Gann or Grigsby, whose terms would have expired in December 2017, nor is there comment about finding their replacements. When asked, Paladino did not know the dates of the Gann and Grigsby resignations and although he had discussed the Gann resignation with board president Sneed, he had not seen the Grigsby email resignation.
From director Paladino’s perspective the summer turmoil stemmed from a lack of through communication and a lack of understanding, “Looking back it could be construed as healthy. There needs to be room to voice disagreement. There was pretty intense disagreement for a couple of weeks, but we set aside personal issues for the good of the community.”
Paladino sees the internal library conflict as separate from the upcoming ballot issue, “We kept working on the ballot issue and it continued to move forward. Even though we had different opinions on timing, details and the amount of the mil levy increase, everyone agreed to the need for the ballot issue.”
On Sept. 21st the Montrose County Commissioners appointed two new board members to fill the MRLD board vacancies. Sally Karo and Robb Ruyle will take their seats at the Oct. 15th meeting.