EAST LAKE — Citing recent media reports about her ouster from the East Lake Community Library, library director Patricia Perez told her employer she wanted additional severance or she wouldn't sign an employment release.
But her employer declined, and now Perez's departure is classified as a firing with cause.
On June 4, the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency, an appointed board that oversees the library, voted to terminate Perez, who had been the library director since 2009. However, if she would sign an employment release, she would get 30 days of severance pay. Board members also offered to let her resign instead of being fired.
The message that she wouldn't sign the release without getting 30 more days of severance was delivered to PHCSA Wednesday by the board's attorney, Andrew Salzman.
Salzman said Perez was "unhappy with some of the publicity that has been associated with her tenure and therefore has requested through her attorney that I come to the board tonight and ask for additional compensation of another 30 days."
After several minutes of discussion, board chairman Rex Haslam told Salzman the board did not want to change its original action.
The decision to terminate Perez was made by the board two weeks ago, a few days after Perez returned from a personal leave.
Both PHCSA and the East Lake Library Advisory Board had ongoing concerns about Perez's job performance. Criticisms ranged from her grasp of financial statements and library budgeting to her working relationship with PHCSA, as well as "not following insurance and background check rules,'' according to PHCSA documents.
During Wednesday's board meeting, Salzman reminded attendees that government agencies' records "are public and that's just the way it is. … if you are working for a government agency there's a chance that things that go on will be made public,'' he said. "In fact, as we talk here today, this is a public forum.''
Perez is not the only one frustrated with the publicity the situation has generated.
Cheryl Dorweiler is in charge of children's programming for East Lake Community Library, and recent reports that Perez failed to complete background checks on employees with access to children surprised her.
Dorweiler said she went through a "Level II background screening'' several years ago because in her job, she performs outreach in Pinellas County schools.
"I'm the one people think of when it comes to the children at East Lake Library,'' she said. "When people read about what's going on at the library, they might think of me. I'm also a Boy Scout, Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader, too. I know I'm fully background-checked.''
Mary Mason, the human resources specialist for PHCSA, confirmed last week that background checks on library employees have now been done. However, several had to be completed after Perez took her leave, she said.
Piper Castillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4163.