News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Dubois library director's termination seems unjust
Jan 27, 2013 - Carl and Ellen Jungck, Dubois
It is with great concern that we are writing this letter to the Fremont County Commissioners regarding the recent termination of Paula Sabatka as branch manager of the Dubois library.
As elected officials who oversee the county's library board, we would ask that you investigate the events surrounding her termination with the library board and specifically the Fremont County Library Director Matt Nojonen.
In a published news article, it was stated that Paula was terminated for violating Wyoming Statute 9-13-105 (Misuse of Office), which states, "(a) A public official, public member or public employee shall not use public funds, time, personnel, facilities or equipment for his private benefit or that of another unless the use is authorized by law. ... "
The article also describes that Fremont County School District 2 and the Dubois Library were cooperating to provide the school with library services, including "story time, library skills, training inter-library book loans for research or projects and collection development of the school district's books". It also states that while a formal memorandum of understanding was discussed, the article indicated that the county library could provide services without financial compensation from the school. We are assuming, then, that no formal memorandum of understanding outlining what services the county was to provide to FCSD2 was written and/or signed.
While we understand that all the facts surrounding Mrs. Sabatka's termination and appeal hearing cannot be made known to county residents (assuming that personnel issues are private) it appears that the rapid termination of Paula's employment was premature. According to the article, Mrs. Sabatka ordered approximately $500 worth of books (clearly marked) for the school district with county funds as part of collection development for the school district, which the school district promptly paid back to the county.
Since there was no formal written agreement outlining Mrs. Sabatka's duties as part of the cooperation with FCSD2, it seems that the purchase would have been justified according to the verbal agreements that were made between the county and the school district and were done by Mrs. Sabatka in good faith for the community's benefit.
Moreover, as taxpayers, county residents pay a mill levy to fund county boards (including the library board) and state school districts which serve their respective counties. It appears to us that the purchase of books for the school district, were for public benefit and not for private benefit and therefore not a violation of Wyoming State Statute 9-13105.
Since Mrs. Sabatka joined the Dubois library, and with her cooperation with Dubois Friends of the Library, our community has benefited through expanded children's programs and activities, book sales, and cultural activities such as art displays and concerts. The work with the school district is an innovative expansion of benefits to the community, in a time that budget cuts are looming for both FCSD2 and Fremont County.
We understand that the Fremont County Library Board was overwhelmed with letters from Dubois in support of Mrs. Sabatka prior to her appeal hearing.
It appears that these letters had no effect on the library board, a board which is supported by our dollars.
As taxpayers who support both the library and the school, as stakeholders who patronize the library, as parents who have a child in the school system, and as voters who elected you as our county officials, we would ask that the Fremont County Commission review library director Matt Nojonen's apparent decision to not have a formal written agreement outlining the specific duties of the Dubois branch manager in its cooperation with FCSD2.
It seems unjust to terminate a dedicated county employee for an apparent lack of guidelines outlining this particular aspect of her job. It also appears that the voice of the Dubois community had no impact on a county board that the elected commission oversees.
Please let us know of your findings.