Pawlet library director dismissed

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The Pawlet Public Library on School Street in Pawlet. Contributed photo

By Doug LaRocque

Pawlet Library Director Lyndsi Barnes  has been dismissed from her position.

According to Barnes, she received an email Nov. 7 from the Pawlet Library Board of Trustees telling her the board had voted “no confidence” in her and she was dismissed effective immediately. Barnes said she was not given any other information regarding the dismissal.

Since that time, several residents have spoken out in opposition to the dismissal, some attending the Pawlet Select Board meetings in November, urging her reinstatement.

While Barnes was dismissed by the library board, she claims she was actually paid by the Town of Pawlet, raising the question of whether the town is the employer of record and did the library board have the authority to dismiss her.

Mike Beecher, chair of the Select Board, said the town has an agreement with the library board that allows them to hire or fire. As to whether the town is actually the employer of record and if the Select Board would have any say in the matter, he referred to question to town attorney Merrill Bent. Bent could not be reached for comment at press time.

According to the Vermont Department of Labor, determining who is the employer of record is a complicated matter under Vermont labor law and is dependent on the exact set of circumstances. Because Barnes has the right to file for unemployment and have any potential claim investigated by the department, the department’s general counsel, Robert Depper III, said he cannot speak more specifically about the matter because of claimant safeguards.

What the library board has to say

Harley Cudney is the chair of the Pawlet Library Board of Trustees. He confirmed that Barnes did receive an email. Cudney said he has been counseled not to speak directly about the dismissal as it is a personnel matter.

“I can tell you that the trustees had immediate and pressing concerns with the former library director, and Ms. Barnes would not cooperate with selecting a meeting time to discuss these concerns,” Cudney said. “When a meeting time was chosen with two board members and communicated to her, she did not show up.”

Cudney added, “She was not in attendance at the monthly library board meeting the following week when the trustees voted ‘no confidence.’”

Municipal libraries in Vermont are set up such that the board of trustees are responsible for hiring, working with the library director and supervision, up to and including dismissal, Cudney said.

“Specifically, according to our library bylaws, the board chair is the liaison to the library director,” he said. “An unwillingness to meet with the board chair and another member of the board makes this responsibility impossible to fulfill.”

Barnes responds

The former library director said that when notified about the pending evaluation, she contacted the Vermont Department of Libraries, who indicated by email that there is a best practice library boards should follow when performing an evaluation.

According to Barnes, the library director should first have time to generate a self-evaluation and the board to prepare their own evaluation. The documents are then exchanged and a time set for the director and the entire library board to be present and the evaluations discussed.  

Barnes said she informed the trustees that “never having been given an evaluation after two years of service I will need sufficient time to prepare a self-evaluation.”

She suggested such an evaluation be scheduled for the trustees’ December meeting, she noted.

Barnes said Cudney responded by email that this meeting is not a comprehensive review. No self-evaluation is necessary, required or expected. He also indicated her attendance at such a meeting was mandatory.

Barnes said she did not attend the November meeting of the board because she was discharged from the hospital emergency room two days early suffering from the flu, and informed the trustees by email she was too ill to attend.

This story will be updated at as more information becomes available.