Library trustee resigns after writing letter of complaint

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At their February meeting, long-serving Plattekill Library Trustee and former board President Lynne Ridgeway submitted her resignation to President William Farrell. She was not in attendance.

On the library agenda for February Farrell indicated that he was going to discuss Ridgeway’s formal letter of complaint that she sent, while Library President, to Mark Schamming, Deputy Commissioner for the NYS Library Cultural Education Center, on September 13, 2018. Within the six page letter, Ridgeway accuses board Trustees William Farrell, David Padilla and Joseph Egan of, “acting to undermine the governance of the Plattekill Public Library” and asks Schamming to, “take the contents of this letter under consideration and provide whatever advice or assistance is within your powers to act or recommend any actions we or others can pursue.”

Ridgeway elaborated further in writing, accusing the three trustees of failing to uphold their oaths of office; regularly acting in an unprofessional, hostile and disrespectful manner to other trustees and to the library staff; exceeding their authority by not recognizing the role of the Library Director as CEO; failing to participate in preparing the performance evaluation of the Library Director and interfering with the management of library functions. Ridgeway particularly targeted Farrell, stating that he provided “demonstrably false” and confidential information to the Southern Ulster Times, however, she provided no proof for her claim.

Farrell noted that Ridgeway’s September 2018 letter went from the Commissioner to a Development Specialist and to the Mid Hudson Library representative without the board’s knowledge.

“Everybody seemed to have a copy of that letter and this board knew nothing about it and on that take I think the board members who were accused have the right to respond to it,” he said.

When Farrell suggested having the library’s secretary reach out to the library staff to see if there are any complaints or issues, trustee Val Smith said the board would not get an answer from them; “That’s putting them in a really bad position...Please don’t put them in that position. My advice would be to tell the staff to not say a word.”

Farrell responded sharply, “I didn’t do that, Lynne Ridgeway did that. She’s put them on the spot. She shouldn’t have made comments like all three of the accused have been rude to the staff.”

After being questioned by trustee Joe Egan, Smith admitted that she participated in writing the 2018 letter and did not sign it because she was going to write a letter of her own. She said she did not agree with some of Ridgeway’s conclusions but added that she was under no obligation to inform her fellow trustees of the letter.

Farrell promised transparency moving forward.

“We’re a publicly funded board and we’re supposed to be open with the public and we’re going to do that,” he said.

Smith quickly added, “unless it’s harmful to do so,” claiming that a board member revealed private correspondence between the library attorney and the library board to the media. When fellow trustees asked for proof to back her claim, Smith provided none.

Trustee Election Questioned
In late September 2018 George Hickey won election to the Library Board and the following month William Farrell was elected President, unseating Ridgeway from a position she held for 15 years.

Without notifying the library board, Ridgeway undertook a letter writing campaign in an attempt to oust Hickey from the board because he failed to file his oath of office with the Ulster County Clerk. He did, however, file it properly with the Plattekill Town Clerk but overlooked the required filing at the county level.

In her September 13, 2018 letter Ridgeway pointed out to the Deputy Commissioner that Hickey was a former trustee and characterized his conduct then as, “consistently disruptive and hostile or more so than any of the accused Trustees.”

Ridgeway continued in her effort to have Hickey thrown off the board by also writing to Jane Minotti, Library Development Specialist with the NYS Library Division of Library Development, and to Nina Postupack, Ulster County Clerk, apprising them of Hickey’s failure to file his oath properly.

At the library’s February meeting President Farrell released documentation of Ridgeway’s campaign against Hickey, pointing out that the board’s attorney informed him that failure to file an oath does happen but it can be easily rectified by the board voting Hickey back on. Hickey would then have to run in the September election for a full term.

Farrell said Ridgeway undertook her lengthy letter writing campaign against Hickey without the board’s knowledge or authorization to file an action against a fellow trustee. He said this matter should have been brought to the immediate attention of the full board and the library’s attorney, but instead Ridgeway acted in secret and did not even submit her letter to be placed in the library’s record.

Farrell said Ridgeway contacted many other authorities, “but not one peep anywhere to our trustee board...Lynne instigated it, Lynne followed through and the part of the letter that bothers me mostly is when she sends the letter to the county and says if you need any information, contact me direct.”

Farrell said he was unaware that the oath had to be filed within 30 days of the election with the county clerk but pointed out that Smith and Ridgeway knew the proper process, “and you did nothing, so wait till it goes by and then do something.”

The board decided to wait until their March 14 meeting when their attorney will be present to fully resolve this matter.

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