This article has been updated to include an excerpt from a letter from the president of the union.
A committee of the Detroit Public Library Commission voted Tuesday to put Executive Director Jo Anne Mondowney on paid administrative leave until her contract expires Aug. 24, three years to the day since she joined the system, according to The Detroit News. The commission had already voted in January not to renew her contract when it expires.
The full board was supposed to vote on Mondowney’s leave on Tuesday morning, but only three members were present, so the board did not have a quorum. However, commission rules allowed the three members to constitute a committee of the whole, which could place Mondowney on leave. The leave starts immediately, but the decision must be ratified by a May 15 vote by the seven-member board.
It’s not clear whether that ratification will be forthcoming, given that the lack of a quorum may have been deliberately engineered in protest at the proposed action. “Several of us decided to leave because there was no information given to us about the purpose of the meeting,” the News quoted board vice president Russell Bellant as saying. “Based on what I understood what the purpose of the meeting, I didn’t think their motives or purpose was honorable.” Bellant was in the building at the time of the vote, though he chose not to attend.
However Board member Franklin Jackson though the dishonorable behavior went the other way, calling the decision not to attend the session “skullduggery and sabotage.”
Kinloch said Mondowney should have been more aggressive about straightening out the fiscally straitened system’s finances, according to the News, and, as a case in point, that the library only received $15 million of the $25 million it expects from the city. (The News quoted city officials as saying that the system received $21 million and another $4 million is on its way.)
The Detroit Public Library had to close four branches late last year due to budget constraints, despite substantial public protest, and at one time thought it would have to close many more.
Late last year, the commission also moved to not renew the contracts of two other top staffers. Deputy Director Juliet Machie’s contract ends April 21 and Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cromer’s ends September 19.
The commission is also calling for an audit of nearly $3 million in no-bid technology contracts, according to the News, in part because Cromer signed contracts with website contactor Cubemation, which had created a website for Cromer’s ex-wife’s business.
Laurie Townsend Stuart, president of UAW LU 2200, which represents the library workers, wrote a letter of support for Mondowney in January, crediting the director with helping to pass Michigan House Bill 4932, which amended the State Aid to Public Libraries Act to lower the population requirement for an existing library system can be designated as a cooperative library, as well as saving the library about $2 million in outside contracts, and improving communication between administration and staff. Said Stuart, “LU 2200 believes that the prudent course of action for the Detroit Library Commission to pursue at this time is to retain Mrs. Mondowney as the Executive Director of the Detroit Public Library.”
Neither Kinloch, nor Mondowney, nor Bellant immediately responded to LJ’s request for comment.