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Fired Gulf Beaches library director wants settlement

MADEIRA BEACH — Former library director Jan Horah is threatening to file a lawsuit for "wrongful termination" if the library's Board of Trustees does not agree to an unspecified "settlement."

This was the implied threat made by an attorney representing Horah, who was fired this month after ongoing controversy regarding financial management of the Gulf Beaches Public Library.

Horah, who was hired in 1999 and earned a $69,436 salary, was also criticized for excessive absences from work this year — much due to illnesses and deaths in her family.

Attorney John D. Goldsmith called Horah's dismissal "a disgrace" and gave the board 10 days, until Monday, to respond that it is "interested in discussing settlement." Otherwise, he said, Horah would "pursue her legal remedies."

He said the board breached several provisions of Horah's contract when it fired her.

The board voted unanimously last month to fire Horah even though she could not attend the meeting because she was traveling out of state on family matters.

At the time, library board chairman Nick Simons told the board he had polled the other town mayors and found they had "lost confidence" in Horah's management of the library.

Simons, who said he was unsuccessful in several attempts to reach Horah, formally fired her on Nov. 3 when she returned to work.

Goldsmith said Horah was "dismissed without warning" when her contract called for a verbal warning to be given first, followed by written warnings.

"Only after a second written warning for a third occurrence of the same action could her employment be terminated. Ms. Horah never received any verbal warning," Goldsmith wrote.

He said the stated reason for Horah's termination is "demonstrably false," particularly claims that Horah had concealed some $300,000 in reserves from the board.

Both the library's auditor and board treasurer knew of the money, he said.

"The additional $300,000 in reserves is proof of her competence, not grounds for a humiliating and immediate dismissal," Goldsmith said in his letter.

The attorney also challenged the actual vote to fire Horah, which he said did not involve a "majority of the voting trustees." Without such a quorum, he said, "her termination is without force and effect."

Goldsmith also cited Horah's "faithful" performance of her library duties during a "difficult last year as her husband slowly died."

He also cited "false and defamatory" remarks made against Horah by board members during public meetings that suggested she was "dishonest, lacks integrity or committed a crime."

Goldsmith said Horah would "aggressively pursue all avenues to vindicate her actions and attempt to repair the malicious damage to her reputation."

After reviewing Goldsmith's letter Monday, the board authorized Simons to hire an attorney to contact Goldsmith.

Simons refused to comment and instructed other board members not to discuss the letter until they are represented by an attorney.

The board's firing of Horah came amid increasing criticism of her leadership by two of the library's member towns — Treasure Island and Madeira Beach. Other towns financially supporting the library include Redington Beach, North Redington Beach and Redington Shores.

The criticism came to a head when Treasure Island voted in September not to fund the library for the coming year.

Following Horah's dismissal, youth services librarian Travis Sherman was named interim library director. Stanley Silverstein, the library's circulation supervisor, is serving as the library's business manager.

Horah could not be reached for comment.

Fired Gulf Beaches library director wants settlement 11/18/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 12:30pm]
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