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Gulf Beaches Public Library board seeks director's resignation

MADEIRA BEACH — The fate of Jan Horah's tenure as director of the Gulf Beaches Public Library will be decided this week.

The library's board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday to ask for Horah's resignation amid building criticism of her management of the financially strapped institution.

"I think we need a change in leadership," said library board member Sharon Danielsen of Redington Shores.

Horah, who was out of state and did not attend the meeting, is expected to be back at work Monday. She declined to comment when reached by the St. Petersburg Times on Friday.

Nick Simons, chairman of the library board and mayor of Redington Beach, said Friday that he has tried unsuccessfully to reach Horah.

He was directed Wednesday to ask for Horah's resignation and negotiate her transition from the job she has held since 1999.

Simons called the special library board meeting because of increasing criticism from elected officials in the five towns the library serves: Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, North Redington Beach and Redington Shores.

Treasure Island officials were the first to complain, charging that Horah had repeatedly failed to give them financial and membership information. That city finally decided to withdraw its scheduled $107,000 in funding for the library for the coming year.

Madeira Beach, where the library is located, was the next city to limit its funding, pledging to provide money only for three months. That city wants the library to make substantial budget cuts.

But the most recent criticism of Horah's management of the library occurred after she revealed several weeks ago in a library board meeting that the library has an extra $302,000 in its operating checking account that was not previously reported to the board or listed as official reserves.

This money brings the library's reserves to about $500,000 in cash — an amount that surprised and angered many town officials.

Madeira Beach City Manager W.D. Higgenbotham Jr., who attended that meeting, said the library "is building reserves at the expense of the cities."

Simons said Wednesday he had polled the other town mayors and found that they had lost confidence in Horah's management.

"You've got a bad situation with this library," said North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen. "This thing with Treasure Island is terrible and is exacerbated by this situation."

Jody Armstrong, mayor of Redington Shores, said "no one wants to be mean," but the library must be treated as a "business".

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

Gulf Beaches Public Library board seeks director's resignation 11/01/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 4, 2008 6:57pm]
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