UPDATE: During Public Expression at the June 15, 2016, Board Meeting I summarized my email below and then read Appointed Trustee Mirell’s email, also below, word for word. I said his email was disgraceful and disrespectful. I said we are not “parading as taxpayers.” The money we pay isn’t Monopoly money and the 6-65 people in attendance at the monthly board meetings, averaging 15 people monthly, are real taxpayers. I said I didn’t receive an email apology and would like an apology now. Not one Board member apologized.
I also said that this type of behavior is indicative of the problems of an appointed board, and is yet another reason why the Board should be elected. My comment was met with stares.
On the morning of June 9 I sent the following email to the Board and the Director of the Westhampton Free Library. I carbon copied in the Library’s Business Manager as well as my husband:
On Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 9:16 AM -0400, “SABINA TRAGER” <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:To the Appointed Board and Danielle, I have a few questions regarding the building "expansion": Danielle has previously spoken to me as well as to others about charrettes for the building "expansion." Have the charrettes begun? If not, when do you plan to begin the charrettes? How are you selecting taxpayers to participate in the charrettes? Will contract district taxpayers be included in the charrettes? Or are you planning town hall-type all-inclusive meetings for all library cardholders? Do you plan to put the building "expansion" options up for a public taxpayer ballot vote? Thank you. If you can please respond in writing I would appreciate that. Sincerely, Sabina Trager
Eric Mirell, one of the appointed trustees, replied to his colleagues without realizing my husband was included:
On Jun 9, 2016, at 10:38 AM, Eric Mirell <email@example.com> wrote:
I think she’s needs to be told that she will find out with the rest of the public she needs to be ignored and her importance diminished. You may be required to respond but not with anything substantial.
When I resign next month due to my relocation I fully intend to take out a large ad in the shp about how awesome it was working with this amazing group of board members and an astounding director in spite of some deranged people parading as tax payers constantly harassing the board and director. I’ve worked with many different groups of people over the years and you all are amazing.Get Outlook for iOS
As a concerned Westhampton Beach taxpayer who pays nearly $500 annually to the Library, I occasionally email the Board. My last email to the Board was perhaps 6-7 weeks ago, and I’ve sent maybe 8-9 emails in 8 months, and I attend the monthly board meetings.
Many taxpayers attend the monthly board meetings. Taxpayers also email the board. The Board posts an email address on the Library’s website. Every taxpayer should be outraged by Eric Mirell’s email saying we should be “ignored,” we are “deranged,” we are “parading as taxpayers,” we are “harassing.” That’s what people with absolute, unelected power say about reformists. Mr. Mirell–you chose to be on the board, so stop complaining when taxpayers have concerns.
Here’s what else people with absolute power do: They fire you because they don’t like that you wouldn’t sign their petition for WHB Village trustees. Read on for specifics of my $25,000 front and back pay settled case, as well as for information on two other settled cases:
In April 2015 Joan Levan asked me to sign a petition. I refused; I had signed the petition for the two incumbents literally the day before. Ms. Levan became visibly angry. I called my husband immediately and half-joked that I would be fired (but, how could I actually be fired, right? I had three out of three perfect Exceeds Objectives performance evaluations from three different supervisors, monthly kudos from our marketing consultant, and had done nothing wrong, ever). I also informed the Library’s Director and Business Manager and three Library colleagues that I thought I would be fired.
I was fired by Joan Levan in June 2015.
Ms. Levan tried to deny me unemployment benefits. She said I “breached confidentiality” by talking about “2-3% wage increases” and I “violated a policy.” (This “policy violation”strategy worked with a Library employee that she fired 18 months prior, but that employee chose not to hire an attorney and pursue it.)
I hired an attorney. The Department of Labor requested from the Library prior to the hearing a copy of the policy I violated. The Library could not provide it (because I didn’t violate any policy). In addition, the administrative law judge determined that any breach of confidentiality was “untenable,” especially because names and exact wages are listed on the Library’s website in many meeting minutes, and I just answered inquiries about what percentage wage increase we Library employees were receiving this fiscal year (a general “2-3%” response).
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) took up my case as well, at no cost to me. Apparently talking about “2-3% wage increases” is “protected concerted activity.” Perfectly legal and acceptable. The Library settled with me at my original number of $25,000, a combination of front and back pay.
On May 9, 2016, the Library also settled for a substantial sum a Department of Human Rights with another employee. A third employee’s case was settled in January 2015, not for money, but for something else meaningful to that employee.
Also, a union was formed. I could go on. Taxpayers should be outraged that other taxpayers, friends, and Library employees are treated this way by a board of appointed trustees.
Oh, before Ms. Levan resigned on October 30, 2015, she appointed Tom Moore, as well as others. How does someone resigning under allegations of power abuse get to appoint their successors? Do we live in Cuba?
Also, we’re looking into the Library’s IRS 990 forms. The Board every year answers “no” to the question about engaging in direct or indirect political campaign activities. Ms. Levan and Maria Moore came on Library premises in the spring of 2014 and asked me sign Ms. Moore’s petition for mayor. Ms. Levan has solicited other WHB signatures on premises as well. Ms. Levan also drove a Library employee to the WHB trustee polls at the end of her shift (after calling her during her shift) on June 19, 2015.
Appointed isn’t American. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Trustee Eric Mirell’s email above is further abuse of power. We fund the Library with millions of tax dollars and should have a say in the election of trustees.