Thwarting Democracy

Tom Moore, President of the Appointed Board, “apologized” for Eric Mirell’s “oops” email.  Please read his email along with my response below.

“Dear Ms. Trager:

It is important that every communication between members of the public and the board of trustees be respectful and dignified.  The response you received from our former trustee on June 9th did not meet this standard.  I am sure you can understand that: the various legal proceedings you have commenced against the library since your termination from your job with the library last June; the many public statements you have made that some would consider less than the whole truth; and finally your advocacy that the library budget be voted down and the contract referendum in Remsenburg be defeated, could all be a source of frustration.  This does not excuse the discourteous e-mail, but it does make it more understandable.
The better response to your e-mail inquiry would have been to explain that no single member of the board of trustees, including myself, can tell you what the board is going to do in the future beyond what has already been decided upon in an open meeting by the full Board of Trustees. Insofar as you have attended every board meeting without fail since June on 2015 there was nothing any member of the board could add.  The Board of Trustees acts corporately, we follow the open meetings law, and have voluntarily adopted a policy that provides the Library follows New York Freedom of Information Law.  This insures that all members of the public can observe the board of trustees as it conducts the business of the Library, and public records can be obtained so that important information remains available.
Thank you for your interest in the library.
Thomas F. Moore
President for the Board of Trustees
Westhampton Free Library”
Here is my response email.  It gives a history/summation of what has been going on at our local library if you are interested:

Mr. Moore,

After I publicly read Eric Mirell’s disgraceful email aloud at the June 15 Board Meeting, outright asked the Board for an apology, and was met with blank stares that go against basic human decency, courtesy and manners, you decided to send me an email.  I believe a simple apology would have been more gracious and genuine, but since you took the time to further disrespect me and democracy, a response is required.

I was wrongfully terminated.  Did the new appointed-by-resigning-Joan-Levan-Board expect me to just roll over?  My legal proceedings against the Library were found in my favor.  “Breach of confidentiality was untenable,” no policy could be produced by the Library that I allegedly “violated,” and speaking of “2-3% raises” is legal and acceptable protected concerted activity. One might argue you wanted to save attorney costs but at the end of the day my two legal proceedings were won in my favor because of the merits of my cases, as were the cases of two other employees.  I collected 6 months of unemployment and was given $25,000 in front and back pay (my original settlement number).

In addition, per my NLRB settlement, everything related to my termination is to be destroyed: “[THE LIBRARY] WILL remove from [their] files all references to the termination of Sabina Trager and [THE LIBRARY] WILL notify her in writing that this has been done and that the discharge will not be used against her in any way.” Why do you continue to mention it publicly at monthly board meetings and in writing? Do I feel another lawsuit coming on due to this constant reference to my wrongful termination and my defense of it being portrayed negatively, along with defamation of character? (Besides Mr. Mirell calling taxpayers “deranged” in his email, we hear from various Moore/Levan “allies” around town that I am also “crazy,” “dangerous,” and “unstable.” This is stuff of authoritarian regimes that can’t argue issues.)

My public statements have all been backed by facts.  If you feel there are half-truths, let’s hear them and I will respond. It sounds like you are calling me a liar.

My advocacy for any budget whether yes or no is my right and opinion.  We live in America.  If I agreed with what the Board presented to the public I would have voted yes.  I find it disturbing and appalling that the Board has problems with people who disagree with its policies or have alternative views.  It’s a healthy, democratic process to listen to all sides and respect different opinions.

As for advocating that Remensenburg vote down the budget—that is unequivocally false. I spoke with SCLS’s Business Manager and also verified with Kevin Verbesey the week before the vote what would happen if a contract district votes down the budget.  I was informed that district would then lose library services.  We then went to great pains on Facebook, on the website and even updated our VOTE NO advertisement for further clarity to specify our call to only WH and WHB voters to vote down the budget. (And why would we choose just Remsenburg anyway?  What about East Quogue and Eastport/South Manor?  Besides being false, your accusation makes no sense.)

Having called taxpayers “minions” in the comment section under an April Library article on , Mr. Mirell yet again flaunts his entitled, appointed, you-can’t-touch-me-because-you-can’t-vote position in an email.  Besides calling all meeting attendees “deranged,” Mr. Mirell wrote to “ignore” me and to “diminish [my] importance.”  He then wrote that basically all the various people who attended the meetings (6-65 a month, 15 on average) are “parading as taxpayers” and are “constantly harassing the board and director.” If the appointed board respected us real live taxpayers paying Library taxes with real hard-earned money, they would not be “frustrated” when these taxpayers discuss multiple valid concerns. And don’t agree to being appointed if you can’t listen to the public.

And how does Eric Mirell’s email “not meet the standard” of respect and dignity yet be “understandable”?  You again make no sense and add insult to injury. Mr. Mirell’s email is an abomination and your “understanding” of it further condones it and shows that Mr. Mirell’s words/attitude/beliefs are indicative of the entire Board’s attitude toward taxpayers, especially those that disagree with the collective Board. In my opinion, his email was a reflection of the Board’s beliefs, and your email here, Mr. Moore, further reinforces that.

Mr. Mirell, appointed in February and only attending March and April’s board meetings manages to spew forth hatred of taxpayers.  Sounds like regime indoctrination to me.

Moreover, this is a problem with hand selected boards; the appointees tend to appoint like-minded people who may not necessarily represent the views of the taxpayer community.  Case in point:  your email, where it’s “frustrating” for the Board to hear opposing views, ideas, suggestions, and concerns. Hence, too, the recent example of the Hampton Bays Public (association) Library’s appointed board questioning how they could have been so “out of touch” with the over 700 “new building” bond voters who rejected the bond.

What does “the better response to [my] e-mail inquiry would have been to explain that no single member of the board of trustees, including [you], can tell [me] what the board is going to do in the future beyond what has already been decided upon in an open meeting by the full Board of Trustees” mean?  I sent an email to the entire Board asking about the building expansion and about the charrettes.  The expansion/renovation was listed in two separate Library newsletters and well as discussed in board meetings. Public meetings had already been scheduled on various dates and publicized on the Library’s website Calendar; Danielle and I had an email exchange about those meetings a few months ago. There is no place for mystery and secrecy in a taxpayer-funded institution, hence our concerns of lack of transparency and accountability arising from an appointed Board.

For accuracy:  I’ve attended every meeting since July 2015, not June.

The employees overwhelmingly voted in a union. Are you going to punish them for needing rights and protections like you’re bullying taxpayers for sticking up for their rights? And with five lawsuits by three employees, with all suits either outright won or settled in the employees’ favor, there are obviously problems.  What has the Board implemented to identify and correct the problems? What has the Board done to assure these problems don’t occur in the future? Yet another concern with appointed Boards—problems appear to get hidden by the perpetuation of hand selecting future Board members.

In addition, the Board’s Trustee Application process appears to be a farce.  Eric Mirell resigns at the June 15 meeting and by June 16 the Library has already appointed a new trustee?  How about publicizing in the newspaper and on the Library’s website the resignation and the fact that taxpayers can submit trustee applications?  Mitchell Schecter, who never attended a Library board meeting prior to June 15, is interviewed on June 15 after the public portion of the board meeting and is appointed the next day?  I submitted a trustee application on June 15.  I was not contacted for an interview though I stated aloud that I submitted an application. There should be elections.  Let the people decide. It’s still a private club and the Board should be ashamed of themselves thwarting democracy.

Continually disrespecting taxpayers with words like “minions,” “rancorous” and “deranged” is poor Board behavior.  The eye-rolling, the condescension, the annoyed and unwelcome attitudes, the Board members whispering to each other when taxpayers are at the podium, the Board member flipping through screens on her iPad during Public Expression, the lack of Board member eye contact—the Board sets the tone for the meetings.  But we don’t write on Facebook or on our website or in emails derogatory or disrespectful personal descriptions of individuals.  We stick to facts and to issues.

The Board should put out a public referendum asking taxpayers if they would like an elected board at the institution they fund.  As it is, I feel robbed.  Duped.  Deceived.  The Boards have been collecting an abundance of money and now seven unelected trustees decide how to spend it, with a few focus groups thrown in (we see how well that worked recently in Hampton Bays).  How you spend our “extra” millions should be put out to a vote as well, like the WHB HS turf and lights.

Appointed isn’t American.  Appointed is indefensible (the Report on the Selection of Trustees is a joke, and we’re not guinea pigs if elected boards at association libraries have worked successfully for decades). Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this Board continues to give the Residents for a Free Westhampton Free Library fodder to work with.  We’re not going away.  And I guarantee one day the Board of the Westhampton Free Library will be elected.

Thank you.

Sabina Trager