The coup at the library

State steps in to appoint five trustees; new officers elected to lead Monroe Free Libary


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  • Changes at the library: The coup at the Monroe Free Library was completed shortly after 9 Monday evening. Prior to Monday's meeting of the library's Board of Trustees, the state Board of Regents has taken the extraordinary step of filling five vacancies on the 12-member panel on April 4. Then, within an hour of the beginning of the meeting, Library Board President Kathy Demos and Board Vice President Paulette Browne were ousted, secretary Sandra Keitai resigned and three new people were elected to the board. Read on.



By Bob Quinn

— The coup d’état at the Monroe Free Library was completed shortly after 9 Monday evening.

Prior to Monday’s meeting of the library’s Board of Trustees, the New York State Board of Regents has taken the extraordinary step of filling five vacancies on the 12-member panel on April 4.

Then, within an hour of the beginning of Monday’s meeting, Library Board President Kathy Demos and Board Vice President Paulette Browne were ousted, secretary Sandra Keitai resigned and three new people were elected to the board.

You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief among many of the 50 or so people in the children’s activity room and those who listened in the adjoining children’s area.

The state’s involvement in a local library’s governance is unusual. And while the results of Monday’s meeting present a dramatic change for the Monroe Free Library, this tornado has been a long time coming.

The leadership dysfunction evolved over a number of years. Communications were poor. People were disrespectful to one another. And because the number of trustees fell from 12 to seven - the minimum needed for a quorum - the business of the library was affected.

Amid welcomes and farewells, there also were harsh words and angry exchanges.

An association libraryA library trustee is a volunteer. The primary responsibility of the Board of Trustees is the library’s annual budget, which is presented each November for the public’s approval. The library’s 2017 budget is $1, 264,325.

Monroe Free Library is an association library, which, under state regulations, allows only members of the association to vote on who will sit on the volunteer board of trustees.

Robert Hubsher is the executive director of the Ramapo Catskill Library System, which oversees 47 libraries in Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and southern Ulster counties. At Monday’s meeting, he said Monroe Free Library was one of three association libraries within the system, but that Monroe was unique is limiting voting for trustees.

Monday’s meeting also the board’s organizational meeting, which typically takes place in January and where the board elects new officers for the coming year.

That technically meant that the terms of office for Demos, Browne and Denise Harris had expired on Dec. 31. None of that matter because the board had not met since then.

And that, together with the five state appointed trustees, created the opportunity for the change.

Three votesSo, with the appointed trustees, there was a full house to vote on new officers to lead the trustees for the remainder of the year.

Initially, there were six people vying for three vacancies. Demos, Browne and Harris sought re-election. Nominated from the floor were Jack Atkins, Donna Demming and Charles LeViseur.

With Keitai’s resignation, there were now four vacancies.

There were actually three votes.

First ballot was voided because the votes were incorrectly counted.

The second vote ended in six people each receiving six votes, requiring a runoff.

At this point, trustee Patricia Shanley asked for the floor. She said the current board was “bleeding money on legal fees.”

She said the board spent $51,663 in 2015 on legal fees; $19,200.85 in 2016; and $11,610 so far this year.

The legal fees are for the board’s actions regarding the unionization of the library staff.

Shanley also said most of the legal fees were approved without the full knowledge of the entire board of trustees. “This is not fair to the public,” the trustee said.

Hubsher said the library’s legal fees were large proportionally by comparison to other libraries within the system.

At this point, trustee Hormoz Nozari said to Shanley: “You are a disservice to the Board.”

He also criticized Library Director Marilyn McIntosh, saying she fomented the ill-will between the staff and the Board of Trustees.

Browne also added the Board of Trustees had wanted to permit the public to elect trustees “but your director did not want to go public.”

“Not true,” McIntosh responded.

Nozari attempted to explain how the board had sought people to fill the vacancies. “But no one volunteered,” he said.

People in the audience repeatedly challenged him. And each time, he told them: “You are out of order.”

“Resign,” came the response from cat callers.

“You are out of order.”

“Resign.”

Eleven times Nozari said the cat callers were out of order.

“Resign” was chanted back four times.

And then the third vote was taken. The results:

Atkins: 8

LeViseur: 8

Demming: 6

Harris: 6

Demos: 5

Browne: 5

"Move on,” Hubsher advised. “No one can fix the past. Reliving old wounds is not productive. The future has opportunities on behalf of the community.”

A new slate of officers, beginning with Shanley as president, was elected.

And then many in the crowd applauded.

McIntosh said in a telephone interview the next day that she expected that one of the first things the new board would do would be to make the election of trustees public.


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