B y Jaime Thomas
The Pember Board of Trustees accepted the resignations of Marcia Klam, Gigi Zeitler, Kaela O’Grady and Shelly Keene at a special meeting Sunday afternoon.
Following the resolution, the board immediately appointed Mary King as president of the board and Charlie King, Robert Tatko and Mary Ann Carey as trustees to fill the vacant spots.
Assistant Village Clerk Denise Davies then administered an official, notarized oath of office to the new members and current members Bo Young, Rob McGuire, Mary Silitch, Phyllis Cavanaugh and Mario Torres.
In their letters of resignation, the four trustees cited their status as non-village residents as a reason “so that the Board of Trustees can appoint a village resident.”
Zeitler also submitted a more extensive letter explaining her motives, expressing that she resigned with both a heavy heart as well as with great pleasure.
“A heavy heart because of my commitment to this institution and the staff and board members; a great pleasure because I do it for the sake of complying with New York state statues regarding library boards. My stepping down will allow for a properly constituted board, and all of my actions with respect to the Pember have been, and continue to be, for the benefit of this great institution,” she wrote.
The board then voted to retain Whiteman Osterman and Hanna LLP as council at an hourly rate not exceeding $225 per hour on an at-need, no contract basis. Following the decision the board, as well as Museum Director Pat Wesner and Zeitler went upstairs for a 25-minute executive session by phone with the attorney’s office regarding matters involving pending or threatened litigation.
The public meeting then resumed with the board voting to enter into negotiations with Keefe and Wesner, the architectural firm hired to expand the library and museum.
The board aims to “immediately terminate the agreement for architectural services, upon such terms as are reasonable, but with the library retaining the rights necessary to utilize the work product created by the firm to date for the completion of the proposed addition at some point in the future.”
This action followed disapproval from the public and local officials that the library paid more than $200,000 in fees to the firm despite a conflict of interest with a marriage between Pat and Mark Wesner.
As King was explaining this motion, resident Lori Winn spoke up about the board not ceasing all contact with the firm.
“Is there a bylaw that prevents that from happening? Why will you still be able to consult him?” Winn asked, expressing disbelief that the money paid to Keefe and Wesner does not necessarily include the plans.
“We’re not negotiating that right now,” King said, of contact with the architecture firm. “That’s the past. What I’m saying is we’re not going to flush 200,000 down the toilet that we spent on architectural rights. We’re trying to be fiscally responsible.”
The board then voted to “enter into negotiations with Communication Services to immediately and indefinitely suspend the agreement for public relations services related to the re-chartering, upon such terms as are reasonable, but with the library retaining the ability to seek the advice of the firm on discrete public relations matters as may be necessary from time to time.”
This resolution surrounds Libby Post, who was hired to help promote the Pember’s goal of becoming a school district library. Again, community members and local officials recently questioned the viability of paying Post $3,000 a month when the library is so fiscally unstable.
Additionally, local officials said in recent weeks they do not support the effort with current management and the potential of violating bylaws.
However, the Pember’s last resolution was to “temporarily suspend its efforts to pursue a re-chartering of the library as a school district public library serving the Granville Central School District so that it may meet with and discuss the benefits of re-chartering with the Village Board.”
All trustees except Young, who voted against all three, approved the resolutions.
These significant changes came after a recently released audit report by the state Comptroller’s office, which found several problems within the museum. Local officials and residents have since been questioning trustees’ violations of bylaws and illegitimate spending of several accounts.
King, who has served as a library trustee in the past, said the four new members of the board have not yet seen what the village asked of Pember officials in a recent letter and did not see the answers.
“We’re trying to make good fiscal decisions. This is a step in a positive direction, which is what I want this board to be,” she said.
“You made an excellent point. There’s a lot of information the new board members nave not viewed. We’re going to take that step; this is just an initial step,” he said.
George Henry, who has actively been questioning library operations for a while, addressed the board following the resolutions.
“In an open letter to the community, the treasurer named is a resident of Vermont,” Henry said, going on to say that at a recent board meeting it was “emphatically pointed out that he was not a member of the board.”
The current board said he is not a member, and there is no treasurer right now.
“I questioned that too,” King responded. “We talked with Schofield (the library’s attorney) and are discussing that.”
Thanks and looking forward
Rev. Jerry McKinney also addressed the board, thanking the new members on behalf of the community.
“I appreciate the four folks who have stepped forward for what can euphemistically be described as difficult circumstances,” he said.
King in turn thanked the members who resigned for all of their service.
“It is my endeavor that from this moment forward it is nothing but positive,” she said during the meeting. “If there is a question everybody needs to hear the question and everybody needs to hear the answer.”
Following the meeting, she said she agreed to serve as board president because she has lived in Granville her whole life, and “I love the library with all my heart.”
“I want to try to funnel this into something positive,” King said, acknowledging that there are a lot of emotions on both sides of the issue. “Hopefully we’ll put the train back on track, and it’s going to be good.”
Carey said she has lived in Granville for about four years and volunteers in the upstairs museum. She comes to the board with experience, having worked at Lyndhurst National Trust Historic Site and the Hudson River Museum, and she is enthusiastic about the Pember.
The public and the board will have further chance for discussion about issues surrounding the Pember at the next monthly board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 5 p.m.