Friday, October 8, 2010
And so it ends (badly)
UPDATE: Sunday night 8:15 PM (What more can I say?????)
Dear Chris Hoffmann, Bonnie Vigeland, and Will Bridegam,
Your letter below, Chris, I received from a Friend of the Library. Usually, when a writer mentions someone in a letter, the writer sends a copy to that person. When writing on behalf of the Jones Library Board of Trustees you should send a copy to all trustees. But clearly from the tone of this letter, you were not writing on behalf of the Board but instead attacking the action of one member and insulting three members.
You failed to copy all of these fellow trustees.
Measured criticism of the action of a fellow trustee is perfectly legitimate, indeed an obligation, but in my view should be done face-to-face or within the Board itself, not to a presumably broad number of “undisclosed recipients.” Insulting language is completely inappropriate. And, as your elder, I will add that insulting one’s elders is also inappropriate.
You apologized once at a Board meeting for losing your temper at meetings, and said that you'd "meant no disrespect" for other trustees. I hoped you would not do it again.
But you have.
Your latest example of the trustees’ “harassment”, the queries Sarah McKee has been making into how other library trustees are informed of a library’s finances, is not harassment in any sense. Instead it is an example of a trustee working on behalf of the Board and the financial stability of the library. Sarah’s research rises directly from the request made to Bonnie back in March, described in the minutes of the March 19th meeting, that she provide monthly cash statements and information on all library accounts. Bonnie has been providing cash statements, as you know, but we still do not have complete information on monies from gifts and bequests. Trustees at other libraries say they are amazed that the Jones Library trustees do not have this information. Such information is absolutely necessary to meet our fiduciary obligations. The Massachusetts Public Library Trustees' Handbook, a publication of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, lays down clearly that trustees' responsibilities include "[k]nowledge of the library's financial base and ... [k]nowledge of supplementary sources of revenue." Page 7.1.
You say: “Would you apply for a job knowing you'll be starting out with the level of harassment and muzzling that Carol, Pat, and Sarah are certain to be dumping on you? Would someone who agrees to come to the Jones with the expectation of playing second fiddle to the Carol faction even be someone you'd want running our library?” I take great personal offense at your language of “harassment” and “muzzling” and “dumping”, and your snide term the “Carol faction.” Your asking people “to put Carol and Sarah in their place as an annoying but impotent minority” is a rallying cry of the most undignified sort. I respect Carol and Sarah as I do all the trustees, present and past, who have contributed to the Board’s work for the library.
I also have great respect for the many good works done by the Friends of the Library. To Bonnie Vigeland, president of the Friends, and Will Bridegam, our former trustee and emeritus librarian of Amherst College, and to those who signed the August 3rd petition for a review committee, I hope you will do independent research into Chris’s accusations of harassment.
Chris, I am pleased that both you and Bonnie are willing to go forward with the facilitation, and I am also pleased that you are urging others to run for trustee of the library. May the best people win.
President, Jones Library Board of Trustees
From: Chris and Anne Hoffmann
Date: October 8, 2010 8:50:38 PM EDT
Subject: [Friends] Bonnie's resignation announced, and a plea for candidates.
As most of you already know by now, today Bonnie Isman announced her retirement, effective December 10th.
I was at the Jones this afternoon to talk with her. Unsurprisingly, she's in a very good mood thinking about her upcoming life of leisure. Her decision to retire now is largely personal -- it is a good time in her life to retire. But I'm sure the harassment from board has taken its toll on her and influenced the timing.
As just the latest example of harassment, yesterday I learned that Sarah had been talking with the director of the Forbes library and has wants to get a meeting between Pat, me, and their treasurer. Sarah continues to believe our accounting practices are negligent (or worse) and won't even listen to the accountants we hire to go over the books who are continually telling her everything is OK and our current methods are quite good. Sarah was actually upset with me because I cc'ed Bonnie and Tina in my reply to a message she'd sent to Pat, nme and the Forbes' director: Quoting: 'I find it disturbing that you included Bonnie and Tina on an email that I'd sent to Pat and you only. It is up to Trustees to specify the financial reports to be made. This is not to exclude the staff. It is to bring them in further down the line. It would waste their time to bring them in now.' This is how bad things are, folks.
Bonnie and I both want the planned meeting with the facilitator to go forth. So does everyone in the staff I talked with while there. I hope there will be no resistance from the rest of the board. If there is, I'll be sure to let you know.
And now my plea from me to you:
It's clear that next year's Jones Trustee election will be one of the most critical ever
A search for a director will take at least six months. The two people elected next spring will almost certainly be a third of the votes cast for our next director. Since we were founded in 1921, The Jones has had only five directors! They tend to stay for a long time. We have got to make a wise choice.
Beyond the problem of choice, also think about the work environment potential applicants are going to have to consider. Would you apply for a job knowing you'll be starting out with the level of harassment and muzzling that Carol, Pat, and Sarah are certain to be dumping on you? Would someone who agrees to come to the Jones with the expectation of playing second fiddle to the Carol faction even be someone you'd want running our library?
Folks, I've asked for help before. But I really mean it this time. Someone needs to step up and agree to run. Even if you can only commit to a single term, that should make all the difference. If we can create a solid core of rational people who are able to put Carol and Sarah in their place as an annoying but impotent minority, in three years' time the trustee culture should be so improved that finding replacements won't be the nearly impossible task it is now.
Next year, I am up for reelection. Pat's second term is up. I don't think she wants to run again, but you know Carol is going to be putting a lot of pressure on her to stay. So we need one REALLY GOOD new candidate in case this becomes a contested race.
A Select Board member recently told me "we ignore the Library Trustee [races] at our peril". Indeed we do. Please. Help. Step up.
Original Post Saturday morning
Forever Jones Library Director Bonnie Isman announced her retirement, effective December 10, 2010. Yes, this is roughly the time frame cold bloodedly calculated by Trustee Carol Gray--currently ensconced in Cairo, Egypt--but I'm sure Ms. Isman figured out that her pernicious presence would be felt over the next year since she refused to resign as Trustee and would haunt future meetings via Skype.
Score one for the bad guys.