LAWRENCEVILLE -- In late May, Nancy Stanbery-Kellam was offered a chance to resign to "maintain my dignity" before her ouster as director of the Gwinnett Public Library in June.
While Stanbery-Kellam has declined public comment since the vote terminating her employment without cause last month, her thoughts on the dismissal were revealed in an email to the library board, forwarded to Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, which the Daily Post obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.
"Something is very wrong about what is happening here and how it is happening," she wrote, referencing funding handled in a "secretive manner."
In the email, Stanbery-Kellam described a 48-hour deadline, but asked for an extension and clarification on a separate severance mentioned in the proposal.
"Obviously, this more than saddens me after 20 years of service, 7 (sic) of which have been spent working with the board, shepherding this organization through these difficult economic times," Stanbery-Kellam said. "It has not been perfect, but what organization can claim this, to include the county or schools during these unprecedented reductions in revenue. Our record and reputation in the state is better than most Georgia libraries, and our outlook, until this unexpected $1M reduction was in-line with the sustainable plan the board and staff have been working on for years, adjusting with each reduction."
The director went on to say leaders made "smart" decisions to avoid furloughs and layoffs, increase efficiencies and continue to win awards.
"The tipping point seems to have come since the beginning of the year," Stanbery-Kellam wrote, describing challenges with communication and "mixed messages" from the board and the delayed impact of decisions to cut materials and increase hours. At the beginning of the year, three new library board members were appointed, and Suwanee Councilman Dick Goodman took the helm as chairman.
"Personal agendas for major changes in library service have been made public and my removal seems to play into this plan," she wrote. "What seems to be being overlooked is that the library's approach to library services is supported by board policy. I have not only followed and not violated any library policy to include our Code of Ethics. I have responded to every request for information, provided accurate information and met all requested deadlines in a professional manner."
Goodman said he did not know what Stanbery-Kellam was referring to with the "personal agenda" and "secretive manner" comments.
"That's her take on it. I'm not going to refute her view of what transpired," he said. "Everything was above board. There was nothing done that was not appropriate and legal."
The Daily Post also sought emails between Goodman and Nash under the open records act, and in those Goodman described many confrontations with Stanbery-Kellam over funding, including saying he found a budget request "mind boggling" at a May board meeting.
In February correspondence, Goodman told Nash that he asked Stanbery-Kellam for specific plans if the county was to give an additional $250,000, $500,000, $750,0000 or $1 million, saying the proposals could be used to seek more funds, but he blasted the director for giving "boilerplate" answers.
According to an email with the subject line "my task" sent to Nash, who appointed Goodman to the board, Goodman met with the county attorney in March.
"It turns out, according to (County Attorney) Van (Stephens), that things are a little more complicated than I originally thought they would be, but, as it turns out, only about as complicated as I was afraid they could be. In other words, not too bad, just different, and more costly. I now have a clearer picture of the timing involved and the actions to be taken."
Goodman declined to discuss the meeting, saying it was confidential.
On June 12, Stanbery-Kellam was fired without cause by a 3-to-1 vote of the library board of directors. Goodman did not vote, as the chairman only votes in the case of a tie.
As severance, she will receive one year's salary of $121,414.
She did not return a phone call seeking comment.