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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Altadena Library Trustees Hire ‘Gap’ Director, Form New Search Committee During Contentious Meeting

One Trustee ignores the proceedings and reads a magazine, while the Board President mistakenly adjourns the meeting before completing the agenda


[Updated] In a Special Meeting that was both bizarre and fractious, the Altadena Library District Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to install a “gap” employee to temporarily serve as library director in the time period following the upcoming departure of Interim Director Ryan Roy, and before the Board hires a new interim director.

Interim Public Services Director Stella Terrazas was asked by the Board to assume the position of library director beginning September 22, when Roy will have departed the position.

The Board also voted to form an subcommittee to make recommendations to the Board for a new interim “or long term” library director. The new subcommittee would be made up of Board President Betsy Kahn and Board Member Terry Andrues.

The meeting was bookended by two awkward incidents, one seemingly on purpose, and the other “accidental.”

Following roll call and throughout the public comments section of the meeting, Board Member Ira Bershatsky read a magazine on the dais, keeping his head down, and not responding or acknowledging to approximately 30 minutes of comments from residents regarding the library director position.

During the public comment section, which Bershatsky ignored, numerous residents, including Mary Landau, called on the Board to return Mindy Kittay to her position, and Altadena resident Monica Hubbard asked the Board to consider hiring retired Pasadena Library Director Jan Sanders to fill the post. Library Director Mindy Kittay, who was hired in 2015, has remained on leave from her position and not allowed on the property since being given a 90-day extension on her job in June. She is still, however, officially library director.

Kittay had presided over numerous changes to the Library services and facilities, but claimed that she was harassed in her position for six months in 2017 by three Board members — Bershatsky, former Trustee John McDonald, and Armando Zambrano — a group she called the “Male Majority.”

McDonald resigned from the Board of Trustees March 30.

Kittay took a medical leave in January 2018 and returned in May, only to be immediately placed on administrative leave by President Kahn, pending an “investigation.”

The primary item on Wednesday’s Board agenda was to discuss an interim library director.

Following the selection of Terrazas to fill the gap position, the Board then moved to Item 4B on the agenda, a resolution required by the Library’s bank that a second employee be authorized to be a signatory on checks once Roy leaves.

During the discussion of the item, Board President Kahn began explaining to the audience that, despite their questions and requests, she could not legally discuss Kittay’s employment status.

Attorney Dale Gronemeier, who represents Mindy Kittay, then criticized Kahn and the Board for failing to “deliberate” over the replacement of Kittay, prompting another audience member to question Kahn.

Kahn told the second audience member that there would be “no dialogue” at the meeting.

Gronemeier continued to speak, and Kahn asked him to stop twice. He refused, and Kahn suddenly asked the Board for a motion to adjourn. It passed unanimously, and Kahn declared the meeting “adjourned,” but administrative assistant Kylynn Chaney then reminded Kahn that Item 4B was still being discussed.

Kahn tried to re-open the meeting, but local activist Rene Amy stood up and said, “You can’t. The meeting is over. It is adjourned.”

And it was. Kahn apologized to the audience for “the way the meeting ended.”

The abrupt adjournment of the meeting means that the Board will still need a second signatory to write any checks once Roy leaves on September 21. The board would then still have to pass Item 4B, the banking resolution, at its next official meeting, which would be September 24.

“The Brown Act expressly prohibits local legislators responding to public comments,” Gronemeier said in a statement following the meeting. “Because [Kahn] was out of order, she invited my challenging the accuracy of her assertion. If she had not caused the adjourning of the meeting, I would have continued to call her out and dared her to have me arrested, because it would have been a false arrest.”

Gronemeier continued, “I thought that was where she was going, but she surprised me by making the mistake of adjourning the meeting instead. It was a dumb move on her part.”

Meanwhile, asked why he ignored the public comments portion of the meeting, Trustee Bershatsky referred all questions, including those about his own personal behavior, to Interim Director Roy.

By publication time, Roy had not responded to Pasadena Now’s requests for comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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