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Library director fired without cause

Nancy Stanbery-Kellam

Nancy Stanbery-Kellam

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The director of the Gwinnett Public Library was fired Wednesday, after seven years at the post.

After the short session of the library board of trustees, where Nancy Stanbery-Kellam's contract was terminated without cause, the former director left without comment.

"Libraries across the country are facing challenges. ... Libraries are having to redefine their purpose," said Dick Goodman, the Suwanee councilman who heads the board of trustees. "The board felt the library needed new leadership."

Due to an economic recession, the library system's funding has drastically decreased during Stanbery-Kellam's tenure, and controversies have surrounded the decisions to cut services, beginning with a 2009 move to close a then three-year-old Dacula branch in favor of a new Hamilton Mill branch nearby. When that proposal was rescinded, an unpopular plan was floated to convert some libraries to computer labs. Then, hours at the system's 15 branches were cut nearly in half.

In recent months, hours have been extended, but the system's materials budget was cut by one-third after county officials saw disparity with other nearby libraries.

"Most organizations thrive under new leadership," Goodman said, adding that the public service needs to be re-evaluated with tax dollars in short supply. "There are many things that will need a new look."

As severance, Stanbery-Kellam will receive a year's salary of $121,414.

Board member Deborah Oscarson voted against the termination, saying the board should have allowed the contract to expire in September.

"The way this termination has gone down, it's going to cost the county a lot of money," she said after the meeting. "I don't see a reason to terminate a director immediately. ... Fiscally, it doesn't make sense."

But Goodman said the contract would have renewed automatically and the same severance would have applied no matter when the termination took place.

During Wednesday's specially called meeting, the board gave signatory ability to Deputy Director Liz Forster, so paychecks could go out on Friday. Goodman said an interim director will be named at a later date, and the board could call for a national search for a new leader during a regular meeting, rescheduled for Monday.

Outside the meeting, held at the administrative offices of the system at the Lawrenceville library branch, Myra Davila showed up with her kids to check out some books.

She said she was surprised to find the branch closed so early (at about 6:45 p.m.) but had no complaints about the system.

"I think it's pretty good. You can find whatever you want," she said, surprised to learn of the director's firing. "I think it's great for the kids."

Comments

cargendeli 1 year, 4 months ago

This is just sad. I believe the county library board may need better legal representation if the contracts with employees automatically renew. What a great benefit for employees whose contracts NEVER expire so they are assured severance. Ridiculous! Over $120,000 severance that will come out of the library budget further hurting the system and it's loyal patrons. Where do I sign up for one of those contracts? Thank you Debra Oscarson for your clear-headed, logical thought process. It is just a shame the person that gave this director he contract wasn't thinking clearly.

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R 1 year, 4 months ago

First order of business in your national search...

Strip the language that allowed the following to occur:

"The contract would have renewed automatically and the same severance would have applied no matter when the termination took place."

Time to consider bringing in an 80K level staff - give them some room to grow.

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Why_not 1 year, 4 months ago

It all is based upon where the job description puts them on the county's pay grade. That's about in line with other county department directors....maybe even a little less.

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KP 1 year, 4 months ago

It is about time they start cleaning house. Words from someone who worked there for 12 years.

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dentaldawg83 1 year, 4 months ago

we live in a county that pays the county administrator 1/2 million dollars per year..the superintendent of schools gets over $400K...we have overpaid a bunch of folks in the name of "good government"...

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SurelyNot 1 year, 4 months ago

The pay really is not out of line. The automatic renewal is archaic! I can't imagine that there is no review of performance before a contract is renewed. So, this is an opportunity to remedy that. However, there should be enough applicants for the position to somewhat ensure a leader appropriate for the 21st century library users. As for libraries closing earlier...budget cuts do have to be made, I am sure. But the greater concern should be the number of unsupervised youth whose parents allow them to loiter with no purpose. I know that is a challenge. But library functions have radically changed over the last 20 years and GC will need someone who is on the top of their game.

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lawmon 1 year, 4 months ago

cargendeli, this is beyond sad. It is OUTRAGEOUS.

By and large, most public employees do not need to be under contract. They should be treated as "at will" employees like the rest of us.

A year's severance simply cannot be justified under these circumstances.

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Why_not 1 year, 4 months ago

Most public employees aren't under a contract. Most work under the merit system while basically only appointed positions get contracts but they cAn still be terminated.

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sharonestelle 1 year, 4 months ago

The contract for the library director is typically negotiated each time a new director is hired, usually by the library board, with the assistance of the legal department. The library board is also responsible for periodic review of the director's performance. Ms. Kellam's contract is not out of line for a county the size of Gwinnett--more than 800,000 in the service population, hundreds of library staff, and 15 library branches. This is quite a hefty responsibility. I have personally worked for Ms. Kellam in the past and know her to be a very capable and dynamic leader who is committed to providing excellent library services.

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KP 1 year, 4 months ago

sharonestelle- The county needs to get rid of "The Ole Girl Chronies" within this library system. There are others that need to go. New leadership is truly needed in this system.

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sharonestelle 1 year, 3 months ago

KP there is a review process in place that will allow those who are in charge to regularly evaluate performance and give direction. In my opinion the way this termination was handled ... Abruptly and "without cause" ... was wrong. You will never hire and retain good employees by treating them this way.

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SuxBeanU 1 year, 4 months ago

I don't know this women, but it seems what happened under her watch was out of her control To me, the board should share equally in the problems, let's see some new board members replace those that bear some of the responsibility.oopps, there's that "R" word that is unheard of in government.Fired without cause = scapegoat

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kevin 1 year, 4 months ago

should have fired the other old dude that runs the library system. This is what happens when you don't play ball with the BOC. Only time will tell if a new person will run it better, but without more money. The BOC just wanted an excuse to get rid of this lady. Watch the increase the budget for the library once the new person takes over.

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CullenBohannon 1 year, 4 months ago

Kevin - kudos to you. My wife had been talking about this non-stop with her friends and they could not figure out the final piece of the puzzle. It all comes down to political favors and money. I believe you are absolutely correct that the library will now receive more money. Don't get me wrong, I thought the cut was absurd to begin with and any revenue will be welcome. However, I believe it will be given to them to make Dick Goodman look good - well, that could take some doing. BTW, Dick Goodman is the old dude you refer to. I encourage everyone to read the Duluth Patch and Richard and Florence's comments. Boy, they must know him. In the meantime, keep digging and you'll find politics at its worst. We had no idea the library board was so dirty. I guess this fulfills political promises to the folks in Dacula. The community is angry right now and we will vote these folks out. In the meantime, I would say contact your commissioner, but that wouldn't do any good. If anyone runs against Dick Goodman for any office, we will support that person. Oust this board (except for Suzanne & Deborah). They have put Gwinnett back in the news and not in a good light.

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Say_What 1 year, 4 months ago

That's the trouble, though. The library board are directly appointed by the BOC, not elected. Lord only knows why Charlotte Nash thought Goodman should be in a leadership position of an organization he doesn't seem to like very much.

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MaryHarmon5 1 year, 4 months ago

The old dude's name is Dick Goodman. He is on the Suwanee City Council. If you want to see a vision of the library with him in charge, check out his twitter. He reinvented himself in 2006...needs to try again because he didn't get it right. Read the Duluth's Patch and Richard/Florence's comments. I can't top that; however, I do believe that this goes much higher. Ms. Kellam dared to have vision and keep the entire county in mind. This is clearly politically payback. I guess our library system will be determined by Cobb County now. Why didn't Ms. Nash ever mention that another nearby county adopted the computer lab/holds idea? Oh, that's right, her daughter works for Cobb County as a librarian. Please, please someone step up to the plate and run again these commissioners. Also, let's get Mr. Goodman out of office. Charlotte should have stayed in retirement. Lord knows we paid her enough when she was the county administrator. Why isn't the Post doing an investigation on this? Three of the board members should not have even been on the board at the time this mockery went down. Dig deeper and you'll find a great story. Can't wait to see the payoff at the Board Meeting on Monday night!!!!!Sorry, Dick but this will not make you look good.

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zackem 1 year, 4 months ago

This story is typical of the BOC.....Why do the taxpayers sit on their hands and whine? Gwinnett is the same as DeKalb, Fulton, and Clayton counties.....the crooks just can't seem to steal enough! Having anyone on the payroll you can't fire without severance is shameful. Georgia is a "right to work" state! The only director to vote against this "firing" should be retained and all that voted for it voted out of office....just sayin'

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