Last week the Niles-Maine District Library staff, Director, and trustees got the news that Assistant Director/Business & Operations Manager Greg Pritz was resigning as of December 31. I will write more about this later, but to be clear, this is a disaster for the Library, and entirely understandable given the disgraceful way he has been treated. I’m glad to have Greg as my first ever guest blogger. The photo above shows the NMDL lit up red at night during the early days of the pandemic. It was Greg Pritz’s idea to create a visible sign of our support and gratitude for the community’s first responders. Greg was always much more than the Library’s accountant, and his departure is a huge loss.
So, I quit.
My role in the Library had been changing on almost a daily basis in the most recent weeks. Full access to systems that the Library uses began to be restricted. I could no longer see the agenda for the upcoming board meetings prior to its being published. My role at the Board meeting had been reduced to a non-speaking role. As a matter of fact, there was talk of me “lamming it” during the meeting so that I would not be available to answer questions or offer commentary. As my supervisor put it, “I am the only voice for the staff.” I was increasingly being told to do things which were incongruous with my own ethical sense. I was told to cancel and remove the annual payment for the Library’s accounting software after the Treasurer reviewed the monthly bills, which would have resulted in shielding the payment from the rest of the Board. At first I was told that the Treasurer wanted to change the software. Then I was told that the Treasurer wanted to pay for the software monthly. Then I was told that the software would not be changed. Not unlike St. Peter, I was given three chances to acquiesce to this odd order and not unlike St. Peter I denied each request. The key point here is that the payment is overdue and unless paid soon, the Library risks access to the accounting software being cut off entirely.
I was told not to talk to any trustees about Library business and that all such inquiries should be directed to the Executive Director of the Library. In my entire career, I have never been given that instruction. I have always been open and honest with any trustee that has asked a question about a transaction, an action, or a detail. As it turns out, everyone in the administrative suite and all of the department supervisors were told the same thing. Here is the funny thing: At their very first meeting after being seated, the new Board majority adopted new rules which stated (paraphrasing here) that all trustees were encouraged to talk to any Library employee about Library business, and the director needed to support that interaction.
I was increasingly told not to participate in any aspect of the Library’s property tax levy discussion or presentation to the trustees. If I hadn’t been assigned the task of recording secretary at the last Board meeting due to illness, I have to think that I would have been disinvited from attending the meeting in any official capacity. As I sat in the recording secretary’s spot next to the Executive Director, I could not keep quiet in the face of misstated and misinterpreted “facts” which were being presented and discussed. Before I said anything, I was careful to ask permission to speak which was generally met with eye rolls from the Board President. Upon what I considered to be gentle questioning by trustees, the Board’s hired expert CPA abruptly quit in the middle of his presentation and walked out.
I have never seen such craziness in the entirety of my career. This was the Board’s hired gun to whom they were paying $300 per hour. For reference my pay rate is $59.31 per hour plus benefits. So, for the extra $240.69 per hour the Board got someone who left them high and dry. I could not picture myself waiting until my hourly rate increased by that amount so I could act in the same manner. Assuming a 3% annual raise it would take a little more than 54 years to reach that golden $300 per hour goal which would entitle me to quit in the middle of a presentation. That would put me about 35 years past my expiration date.
For these reasons and others (which are all mostly on video), I submitted my resignation and gave the Library one month’s notice in accordance with the policy manual. In my resignation letter I explained that there was a deep and wide chasm between my own values and the Library’s current values in the areas of ethics, fiduciary duty, professionalism, and transparency and openness. I didn’t go into details because my values are personal and I didn’t care to provide points of debate against my evaluation.
So, I quit.
Yesterday, I had a chance to review my list of accomplishments in all areas over the past eight years at the Library. It took about an hour of nonstop talking. There are accomplishments which saved and/or earned the Library District money…lots of money. One savings which comes to mind is the creation and implementation of the Retirement Incentive Plan which saved the Library $250,000 in the first year. And there are accomplishments like the reconstitution of the Patron Services Department, which streamlined the operations of the Library to improve service levels to patrons and residents of the Library District. Though it sounds like quite an ego trip, one particular point that I made clear was that my claimed accomplishments could not have been possible without the collaboration and participation of the employees at the Niles-Maine District Library. Sometimes I would have a germ of an idea which others would jump on to improve and make their own, leading to successful implementation, and sometimes I would present fully formed ideas for which others would be willing to trust my leadership and implement. Either way, I couldn’t have done it alone.
The Niles-Maine District Library is a wonderful resource for the community. It is open and welcoming and all of the staff at there are dedicated to helping all members of the community achieve their goals. I wish the Library well and pray for moderation of the influence of the Board on its daily operations. My decision to leave the Library was not an easy one. As I considered the offer from my new employer, I couldn’t help but see the faces of the staff and the Library’s true supporters on the Board and in the community. I still can’t shake the feeling that I am abandoning them. I am, however, looking forward to starting a new position in the new year which will be more in line with my values in professionalism and ethics. Since I will no longer be concerned about ethical and other differences between me and my employer, I can focus on contributing to the mission. It will be refreshing.