Sunday, August 8, 2010

The sad saga continues and continues...

So I could not cover the "final meeting" last night of the Library Director Evaluation Committee's supposed final meeting, but fortunately Jones Library Trustee Chris Hoffmann (who is not on the subcommittee--and they hate it when he shows up) is a glutton for punishment and attended, even writing an overview that he sent out to a private listserve of 24 concerned citizens. One of them forwarded to me and he gave me permission to publish.

I think before this Jones Library Trustees snafu has ended somebody should award trustee Chris Hoffmann a Silver Star for going above and beyond the call of duty. Or maybe a Purple Heart. Considering his field dispatch I'm kind of glad I could not make the Evaluation Subcommittee meeting last night at 7:30, supposedly their final one. But, apparently not.

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Jones Library Trustee Chris Hoffmann reports:

Thank you Pat, Sarah, and most especially Carol, for wasting three hours of my life. We got out at 10:35pm.

I never knew a meeting could be excruciatingly boring in content while simultaneously being infuriating in tone.

They spent three hours crafting a letter to the editor/column for the Gazette. Some of my notes:

"Should this be a comma or a semicolon?" "Capital M or lowercase m?"
Pat: can't we each draft our own letters in the comfort of our homes and meet later to merge them?" Carol: "C'mon just give me 10 minutes. I can do it."
Pat: "I don't know if that's important. Hey, Chris is here. Perhaps he could tell us what he thinks the most important parts of his memo were." Me: "No, I think I'll leave that for you folks to figure out."
blah blah blah
"Wordcount?!
I think they are just trying to bore us to death
Pat: "Carol, couldn't you just write the draft yourself? Here in the Police Station if your house is a mess. Then let the rest of us go home?" Carol: "But then we may not make the deadline for the Bulletin"
"Wordcount?!"
Sarah: "Carol, only lawyers would use the word 'jurisdiction'"
Carol: "A certain other trustee has disagreed with our report". Me: "Carol, I don't mind if you use my name". Carol: "No, we're taking the high road."
Carol: "I really think we should say something about X", Sarah: "Let's see... wordcount is 649. NO!! That's it! No more!!!"

Basic summation -- I have never seen three people who so completely miss the point. They thought my report was entirely about a formal process, and their column is almost entirely about how they followed a process to the letter of the law: how they interviewed people, what they said to them before the interview, what an executive session is, with an extended quotation from the lawyer's letter proving they needed to go into executive session, and so on. Even if the Bulletin prints it, I can't imagine anyone actually reading past the first paragraph!

Pat jumped ship around 8:30pm. Carol begged her to stay, and told her she could just go home, get her hearing aids, and come right back. "That's NOT the problem, Carol!", Pat snapped back.

One thing I found grimly amusing. Since they are the only Evaluation Committee in Bonnie's tenure to insist on creating a confidential document as their evaluation, they are now forced to tie themselves in knots to find ways to talk about out in a public way! As ye sow, so shall ye reap, or similar aphorism comes to mind. Pat had a mini-meltdown while trying to convince Carol there must be a legal way to tell people what the Director's goals are, at least. God bless her, Tina even suggested they create a separate generic summary of the goals as a public document, but Carol would have none of it.

Believe or not, they are going to meet at 8am on Wednesday so Pat can read it and then all of them will formally approve it. They said they're going to contact the Bulletin right away and ask for space for a column if the paper will wait until Wednesday morning to see it!

For what it's worth, it's all on video. As is the public comment section of our Trustee meeting. The part covering Carol's remote participation didn't come out. Once I figure out how to get the video off the camera, I may post bits to YouTube.


Tiredly,
Chris

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rather than focusing on their process, although its clear that it reveals a stubborn refusal to engage on the issues you really wish to debate, focus on the strategy of your own debate, on the most important issues, with the goal of winning those on the merits.

Tell someone who is a good listener, the three, four or five substantive mistakes in their analysis. If you can make 3-5 strong statements backed by reason, you win the debate.

The more people who agree, the greater the force working against the potential miscarriage of authority.

Also, envision who can act to counteract their goal and decide how to state your case to those people.

Hmm, is this all very obvious? Anyway you realize that what you're doing is important and that many people are counting on your leadership. Really! We are.

LarryK4 said...

Those who can "act to counteract their goal" are pretty much the general public.

And God bless the Internet as they are now becoming more informed about this travesty--one of the worst I have witnessed over 30 years of paying attention.

Anonymous said...

Amherst voters should be asking themselves: just what DO we know about the people we elect?

Perhaps we would have done better picking Library Trustees at random from the phone book.

Anonymous said...

I am a long-time library employee. I am so distressed about what is happening I can't sleep.

The trustee's evaluation committee made it clear that they wanted to interview every staff member at the library. So I participated in an interview with them. I told them that from my vantage point, the director has been doing a good job. I had only one concern to share, and they discussed it with me in great detail. They asked what my other concerns were and I said I had none. They seemed surprised and disappointed by this.

Now that I see what the committee had in mind, I deeply regret participating in the interview. I am afraid they will distort what I said and blow it all out of proportion.

Bonnie is a very competent and experienced director. She deserves commendation for all her years of service. By and large, if you like what you see at Jones Library, you have Bonnie to thank for it.

This persecution has got to stop. I don't know how I can help to turn this situation around, but I can't stand to see it go on any longer.

If you personally know Carol Grey, Sarah McKee, or Pat Holland, please tell them to back off before they do any more damage! If you know Emily Lewis of Kathy Wong, tell them to get more involved and take control of the situation.

And Chris Hoffman--for stepping in and alerting the rest of the community about what has been going on--bless you!

Anonymous said...

I, too, am a long time employee. I worry that that the damage is irrevocable -- many of the employees are heartsick about this controversy. One said to me, "I remember when the Trustees used to be on our side and want what's good for the library."

I cannot understand why the board wants to micromanage everything such as hiring of hourly employees, going to department heads meetings, going to private (as in at someone's house) going away parties, cutting the number of staff at the kids' desk ...

Anonymous said...

I can only imagine what a difficult position library staff must be in. Distressed about what is going on, yet fearful for their jobs if they speak out. It is so important though, for the public to hear their voice. Perhaps a collective letter to the editor with multiple signatures is the way to go (the power in numbers route). The trustees couldn't dare strike back at employees in a devious way once their tactics were exposed broadly by more people in the know. The repercussions would be too great. Their reputations are already damaged and it is obvious from Chris's email what a defensive posture they're in. It is so ironic that the name of their position is "trustee" when there is so little basis for basic human trust in the way they are behaving.

LarryK4 said...

I do find it exceedingly odd this rouge subcommittee would employ the Viet Nam era, "sometimes you have to destroy the village in order to save it" strategy.

Anonymous said...

I find it extremely disconcerting that the people of the Town of Amherst have no way to get rid of these "trustees," and I use that word loosely as they have most assuredly lost the public's trust.

Amherst needs to have a recall process in place to protect us from people like Carol Gray, et al.

LarryK4 said...

Town Meeting actually turned down the chance to have a recall provision added to our antiquated form of government about 15 years ago--perhaps because some members feared it may someday be used against them.

Selectman at the time Hill Boss was quite upset with the black sheep member of the Select board Harry Brooks and so formed a committee and came up with a recall provision, but failed to get a town meeting majority to make it law.

Anonymous said...

To other readers of this blog,

Please tell every interested citizen in town what you are reading here, especially the voices of the library employees. Carol Gray may pretend she is doing the town a favor in trying to oust the library director, but it sounds like the employees live in fear of her regime already. Imagine if she gets to choose the library director too!

Anonymous said...

'Rogue', n'est pas? "Going Rouge" is the title of a book about a the half term governor of Alaska.

Also, this argument should not be won by a mob but rather by the best argument, on the merit of the argument, in other words, reason.

That is why I offered the advice in the top comment.

Anonymous said...

There is no reasoning with Ms. Gray. Anyone familiar with her role in town politics in recent years could tell you that. She's a single minded, ideological steamroller... master of reframing any argument before her... the yappy dog that not only won't go away, but that continually nips at your heels until YOU want to go away. But Mr. Hoffman has stood up to her. Despite badly pierced ear drums and bloody heels he has withstood the relentless aggressiveness and refused to go away. And the more people that stand with him, the greater the chance that this "miscarriage of authority" will be thwarted.

Anonymous said...

When one says "there is no reasoning with Ms. Gray", it's more profound than you think.

Literally, she cannot hear anything anyone opposing her is saying. She hears only the Prime Directive rattling around between her ears.

Outvote her, vote her out, but don't try talking with her, admonishing her, even ridiculing her. She hears none of it.

Anonymous said...

I am a long time--and frequent---patron of the library system in Amherst and have always been extremely pleased with the employees and librarians, impressed with their helpfulness, impressed by the selection available, and enjoy the different branches and their character.

Thank you, Ms. Isman.

Nancy Stewart

Anonymous said...

It's important for us to state it explicitly to any library employee you run into in your daily comings and goings: "THESE PEOPLE DON'T REPRESENT US!" or, more repentantly, "Forgive us for electing these folks; we didn't know what we were doing".

No one inside the libraries should get the idea that this is anything other than a rogue operation inside Trustees.

Will Bridegam, George Goodwin, Nancy Gregg, Zina Tillona, Kent Faerber, Walter Wolnik, Allan Carpenter: these are not the Usual Malcontents, folks. If you were to pick an august panel to be "the conscience of Amherst", you could not do much better than these petitioners. They are the living embodiment of how sorry we all are that this is happening.