Two library pages were reinstated Thursday after abruptly fired – without trustees knowing – on Monday in what one family member called a “cold” and “unprofessional” letter.
The Dedham Library Trustees decided at their monthly meeting Wednesday evening that they would staff two pages for fiscal year 2012, but need to figure out how to fund them.
The pages were given their jobs back Thursday morning, a trustee said.
Controversy arose at Town Meeting Monday when Town Meeting member Cecila Butler asked if any cuts were being made. Moderator Dan Driscoll asked for trustees or the director – who were in attendance – to address the question. After 20 seconds of silence and Driscoll twice calling for someone to speak, Town Administrator William Keegan said the library would not be cutting staff for the next budget.
But as it turns out, he didn’t know that earlier that day the library’s two pages received their pink slips.
This caught both the pages and the trustees by surprise, with some trustees saying they didn’t know about the letter.
“[Keegan] was under the impression that we weren’t reducing staff and since he went on record saying there were no cuts and that we weren’t reducing staff. I think we should go along with it and find a way to fund it,” said chairman Joe D’Amico.
With one page leaving to go to college, the goal of the board is to fund roughly $14,000 to cover two pages.
Trustee Brad Bauer noted that there is essentially the same budget as last year. He said that money could be taken from state aid, donations or even trust funds.
Trustees Rachel Forsythe- Tuerck and Rebecca Peluso agreed that they were in the dark about the dismissal notices sent out to the pages.
Forsythe-Tuerck recommended that they put up enough for one page – about $7,000 – and then ask Keegan to help fund a second position.
Peluso said she was confused as to why the letters were sent out so hastily when the trustees were meeting only two days later.
“I kind of felt blind-sided when this happened because I had no idea,” Peluso said.
Forsythe-Tuerck said the pages deserved professional courtesy, no matter what the budget was. She said that they should have had a face-to-face encounter, and not just an informal letter.
Several residents were on hand during Wednesday’s meeting and said the pages were mistreated.
Rob Riley said that his 81-year-old mother received a very informal letter that told her she would not be needed after June 21.
Riley first thanked the trustees for how she was treated over the 12 years she has worked at and used the Dedham Public Library, but then went onto say that it is embarrassing for the trustees to have allowed this.
Riley said that the letter his mother received had no letterhead, was not on stationary and had a very cold tone to it.
Riley said that the library system is supposed to be a nice, friendly place and this time the staff did not live up to that.
“It was, in my opinion, very unprofessional,” said Riley.
Trustee Mike Chalifoux and library director Pat Lambert repeatedly agreed that this happens every year. However, calls from the audience said that it had never happened before last year.
"In 11 months this situation will occur again," said Chalifoux. "We need to be aware."
Bauer contested that money hadn’t run out, and other discussions during the meeting might yield room for at least one page.
Riley and other angered residents said that they deserve a decent apology from the Library Board of Trustees in person, and library management.
"You have a director of the library," Riley said, clearly infuriated by the situation. "I doubt very much if this employee took it upon herself to send this to my mother – and you owe my mother an apology."
Lambert said she will not apologize because she didn't send the letter out, and did not say who did.
D’Amico said that he would be happy to make an apology for the board.
“I would be willing to talk to the pages and apologize on behalf of the board for something we didn’t even really know about,” said D’Amico. “I’d be happy to do that.”
Timothy Robertson contributed to this story.