Glenwood Public Library Director Jenny Ellis was placed on a three-day suspension without pay following a closed-session meeting with members of the Glenwood City Council, library board and City Hall staff Tuesday, July 22.
Under a motion approved unanimously by the council, Ellis is on probation for six months, is required to complete a management class and mandated to use the library’s social media sites only for the purpose of promoting the library in a positive manner. Also, over the next year Ellis will need the approval of either the library board (if it has a quorum of at least three members) or the city council before hiring or terminating library employees.
The closed-session meeting included testimony from Glenwood Police Capt. Dirk Lincoln, who was asked to carry out a non-criminal investigation into the library director’s treatment of employees and management of the library.
City administrator Brian Kissel could not discuss the dialogue of the closed session, but explained the reason for the investigation.
“We had a couple employees as well as some members of the general public express concerns to us about the management of the library,” Kissel said. “Dirk went in as an independent investigator, not as a law enforcement officer. Dirk does a very good job of interviewing people.”
Kissel declined to discuss the specifics of the complaints, but another person knowledgeable of the situation said Ellis had been accused of exhibiting “unprofessional” behavior that left some library employees feeling alienated and fearful that their employment was in jeopardy.
Ellis didn’t comment after the council voted in open session to administer the suspension.
Under normal circumstances, the complaints against Ellis would have been addressed by the library board of directors, but presently only two of the five seats on the board are occupied. Kissel said it made sense to have a third-party investigator look into the situation.
Kissel said council members believe the management class will benefit Ellis, who has served as the library director since the winter of 2013.
“The council basically felt that as a young employee, it would help with her interaction with staff and the public,” Kissel said.
As for the social media stipulation in the city council’s motion, Kissel said, “We wanted to make sure the library’s social media was being used for the intent of promoting the library in a positive manner.”
Kissel said the library director is the person primarily responsible for making posts on the library’s social media sites.
Terri Craig, one of the two people presently serving on the library board, said she initially believed the city council was overstepping its authority by initiating an investigation, but she is now satisfied with the action taken last week.
“I hope we can fix the things that are allegedly wrong over there (library) and move forward,” Craig said.
* In another library-related matter on last week’s agenda, the council agreed to give library employees a 3.2-percent pay increase, as requested by the library board.
The council initially planned to give the library employees a 3-percent increase in pay for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which began July 1, but agreed to 3.2 percent after the library board promised not to amend its budget to cover the wage hikes.
“We need to take care of our employees,” council member Craig Florian said. “We have to back these people. We have to be with them.”
Council member Jessie Lundvall agreed to the 3.2-percent pay hike, but promised to hold the library board’s “feet to the fire” when it comes to staying within its budget.
Craig said the library board will keep its promise.
“The 3.2 percent can fit in the budget,” Craig said. “It was what we thought we could budget and manage.”