Sunday, January 21, 2018
Education

East Lake Community Library director won't be reprimanded

PALM HARBOR — The black cloud that has hung over Patricia Perez for six months has been lifted.

The embattled East Lake Community Library director will not be reprimanded by her bosses at the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency.

Agency board members voted this week to do away with the long-debated reprimand and any further discussion of it.

"It does not exist," board chairman Rex Haslam declared.

Instead, the agency and the East Lake Community Library Advisory Board collaborated on an updated performance review for Perez, who has held her post since 2009.

The review includes both positive feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Perez was praised for coordinating the recently completed $500,000 expansion of the library and was cited as a good community spokesperson.

However, when it came to Perez's dealings with the agency, the evaluation noted that "the director needs to continue to improve cooperation with regards to carrying out PHCSA-wide objectives.''

At a meeting last October, Marguerite Smirlis, who was then chairwoman of the board, urged board members to put a reprimand in Perez's personnel file.

Smirlis, who is no longer on the board, said Perez had not shown the agency "the levels of cooperation, cohesion and teamwork'' necessary for it and the East Lake library to work together.

She said Perez had not followed established procedures for check writing and had created "unnecessary work'' for the agency when it was trying to plan joint meetings with the Palm Harbor and East Lake library staffs.

Perez was blindsided by Smirlis' comments, as was the East Lake library advisory board. Advisory board members showed up at an agency meeting to support Perez and to say the advisory board should have been consulted before there was any talk of reprimanding their library director.

At the next PHCSA meeting, the board agreed to table the reprimand until both sides could agree. Since then, the two groups have worked on a performance review that appears to have satisfied both groups. It was approved unanimously by the seven-member board.

Marcus Harrison, the agency's vice chairman, asked the board to officially "remove all references to the reprimand.''

That also was unanimously approved.

After the meeting Wednesday, Perez said she was happy to have the situation behind her.

However, she stressed that being criticized in public with no warning "was unfair and unfounded,'' she said.

"I had been very disappointed in the process, and I hope no other employee will go through what I went through,'' she said. "But now, I'm satisfied with the decision."

Piper Castillo can be reached at (727) 445-4163 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

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