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Pawlet residents seek answers from library board about why they fired library director

Pawlet Public Library
Town of Pawlet
Pawlet Public Library

Residents of Pawlet, Vermont have been seeking answers as to why the library board fired its first professional director. As WAMC reported last week, the former director says she was fired by email on November 7th and has not been told why. During its first meeting since taking the action, the library board this week heard from a number of residents wanting a explanation.

Lyndsi Barnes was the Pawlet Public Library’s first professional director. She previously worked at the New York Public Library, leaving her post there during the pandemic to move to Vermont. The library board emailed her on November 7th that she was fired, a week after they had unanimously recommended that the town selectboard approve a 10 percent raise for her.

The meeting room of the library was filled with people who wanted to comment or were seeking information about the situation.

Before taking public comment Board Chair Harley Cudney told those attending the board would not answer any questions.

“The board wants to hear your concerns expressed,” Cudney said. “On advice of counsel we will not be answering questions nor offering explanations, I am sorry to say.”

Resident Martin Kravitt said he created a timeline and found that a possible reason Barnes was fired is because she failed to attend two meetings.

“All of the board members were notified by email that she could not attend those meetings for health reasons,” noted Kravitt. “And you went ahead and fired her, I believe, without cause and against really the will of most of the people in this town.”

A number of residents asked whether the board had properly followed procedures. Cori Rail outlined a number of instances where the elected board violated Vermont open meeting laws, failed to properly warn meetings or publish minutes in a timely manner or properly conduct executive sessions.

“The firing was done in executive session, which as everybody knows is privileged,” said Rail. “We’ve not been informed of any transgressions or unhappiness. As it stands, she was fired without reason, a stated reason for cause.”

Resident Barbara O’Connor was among those asking Cudney if proper procedures were followed before the board made its decision to fire Barnes.

“What were the steps that led up to dismissal?” asked O’Connor.

“Your questions are heard and they are straightforward, understandable questions,” replied Cudney. “The board cannot answer at this time.

“But when can you answer?” pressed O’Connor.

“I made it clear,” noted Cudney. “Advice of counsel.”

“And where is counsel?” O’Connor inquired.

“Ah, not here at this meeting” said Cudney.

“Yeah, I can see,” retorted O’Connor.

On Thursday former Library Director Lyndsi Barnes, who was at the board meeting, said the board still has not told her why the director was fired.

“This is the first library board meeting since I had been dismissed and so there were a lot of members of the community there that were looking for answers,” said Barnes. “And they want answers. You know, I also think that it was interesting in the meeting there were some questions that the chair was commenting and answering. And then certain questions he would default to having counsel advised him not to do so. That was sort of interesting, the back and forth there.”

Library Board meeting audio is courtesy of PEG-TV: Rutland Community Access television.

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