MADEIRA BEACH — Gulf Beaches Public Library director Jan Horah was fired Monday, largely in hopes that the action will help bring Treasure Island back as a full participating member of the library system.
Library board chairman Nick Simons escorted Horah off the library premises Monday morning after presenting her with a formal letter terminating her services.
A week ago, the library board voted to ask for Horah's resignation through an "amicable separation." She was hired as library director in 1999.
Simons said he left messages on Horah's cell and home phones multiple times up but did not receive a return call. She was out of the state during that time.
"I am left to conclude that it is not your wish to discuss the decision (of the board)," Simons said in his letter to Horah.
Simons said Horah only asked when the firing was effective and did not question the board's action.
"I said, 'Now,' asked for her keys and escorted her out," Simons said.
Horah has declined to comment on the board's action.
Thursday, the library board appointed Youth Services Librarian Travis Sherman to serve as interim library director. Stanley Silverstein, the library's circulation supervisor, will serve as the library's business manager.
The board also sharply cut its budget, eliminating two positions — the reference librarian/assistant library director and the technical services assistant — for a savings of about $73,000.
Even with this move and a seven-hour cutback in library operations to 46 hours a week, the library is short about $30,000 in revenue to cover its 2008-2009 fiscal year expenses.
Treasure Island created the library's budget problems when it decided in September not to pay its $107,000 part of the library budget.
In past years, the Madeira Beach-based library was financed by a consortium of five beach communities — Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, North Redington Beach and Redington Shores.
During Treasure Island's budget deliberations last summer, city officials became upset over what they viewed as Horah's refusal to forward requested financial information on library operations.
Madeira Beach then limited its funding to three months. Continued funding would come only after the library made substantial budget cuts.
Horah came under even sharper criticism when she revealed several weeks ago that the library had about $500,000 in cash reserves.
The library board plans to use part of that reserve to cover half of its member town contributions for the coming year.
"This is just a one-year fix. My goal is to get Treasure Island back into being a partner in the library for many, many years to come," said Simons, who is also mayor of Redington Beach. "What we are trying to do as a board is to give back to the towns a reasonable portion of the surplus."
The library's new budget does include $45,000 in revenue from Treasure Island — a contribution that city has yet to approve.
But if Treasure Island does not agree to rejoin the library and fund its part of the library's budget, Simons said the proposed rebate to the towns would not occur.
Monday, Treasure Island delayed setting aside a $57,000 fund to help its residents pay half the required $100 library card fee. Only 72 residents have bought cards so far.
"Will wonders never cease," Treasure Island City Commissioner Phil Collins said after learning of Horah's firing and the budget cuts made by the library board.
The library board will meet again Nov. 17 to discuss hiring a new library director and possibly reorganizing the board to include elected officials from the five towns.