FAYETTEVILLE — A second administrator at the Fayetteville Public Library decided to leave her job this week as a result of what she views as an “injustice” in executive director Shawna Thorup’s recent treatment.
Thorup resigned Aug. 25 after the library’s board held a series of closed door sessions to discuss personnel issues.
Cathy Rew, who served as administrative director, chose to retire this week after 14 years at the library, two years earlier than she planned. Rew handled financial accounting. She also served a human resources role that included investigating employee grievances.
One grievance that didn’t reach her desk was one leading to Thorup’s resignation, she said. The board accepted Thorup’s resignation, but agreed to pay her $42,500 as part of a separation agreement.
The three closed-door sessions began Aug. 8, three days after Thorup left for a vacation. Just before the second session, Thorup said she believed she was about to be fired because she “disappointed an employee” who began working to get support among other employees.
Rew said on Friday after completing her departure from her job she was interviewed by investigator Terry Chadick about Thorup. Rew said Chadick referenced a scanned, digital copy of a document signed by about 10 employees that ended up in the hands of board members.
The library has 65 employees now that Rew and Thorup have left, Rew said.
“Personally I felt like we had an employee that was politically and socially more well-connected with board members than Shawna,” Rew said.
Rew said she felt Fayetteville “lost a real asset” in Thorup. She called Thorup a “librarian for the people” who wanted to promote services to the underserved.
“There was no wrongdoing on behalf of Shawna,” Rew said.
Thorup continued to decline comment Friday.
“I’m not comfortable making any comments until my severance from the library is secure,” Thorup said. Her attorney and the library’s attorney continue to draft the separation agreement, she said.
Rew said she believes a grievance about Thorup was handled legally, but incorrectly, by staff and board members, including President Suzanne Clark.
The board has not revealed what issues existed with Thorup.
“I did have a board member come out and he talked to me about the bravery of these people that all had signed this document and so (he thought) there must be something there, because they were risking so much,” Rew said of board member Mike Malone.
While speaking to Chadick, Rew said Chadick asked questions about Thorup that appeared to be issues of management style, not the functioning or direction of the library.
“One of the complaints was that Shawna elevated a young librarian into a position of leadership and there were more experienced people that didn’t get it,” Rew said.
Another complaint involved concern Thorup did not invite former library director Louise Schaper to a function 18 months ago. Rew said she was also asked about Thorup’s “emotionalism.”
“I wouldn’t call it emotionalism, I would call her passionate,” Rew said. “If she’s talking to you, she is staring at you. It’s intense, very direct. A mannerism that maybe is not quite what we’re used to around here.”
Rew said none of the complaints she heard from Chadick would have resulted in formal disciplinary action if it would have involved any other employee. She also said that as the executive sessions unfolded, she observed Clark having conversations with lower-level staff.
The board only employs the executive director. All other employees are hired or fired by the executive director.
“Based on what I was watching happen between board members and staff, I felt like we weren’t doing the right thing,” Rew said.
Clark declined comment about speaking to employees about Thorup. “To imply there was a political motivation is kind of ridiculous,” Clark said.
Clark said Chadick spoke with a range of employees. Clark declined comment about the issues discussed between Rew and Chadick, including any signed documents brought to the board.
“Anything that was brought to the board, the full board, was considered in executive session,” Clark said. “The entire board met for several hours to discuss issues that were raised to it.”
Rew attended the open sessions regarding Thorup’s resignation and did not speak up, Clark said.
“I’m not understanding why Cathy is bringing up issues about Shawna’s resignation,” Clark said.
According to the library’s grievance policy, an employee should submit a grievance to his supervisor, then the library director, if not solved by the supervisor. If the grievance is not solved, the employee can take the complaint to the board president. The board then has 30 days to resolve the issue.
The grievance against Thorup was taken directly to the board, instead of the library’s chain of command, Rew said.
As the library’s human resources employee, Rew said the grievance should have been investigated by Fayetteville’s Human Resources Department. The department has served as a source of information for Rew when the library has been unsure about general employee issues, she said.
Missy Leflar, city human resources director, said the city has never assisted in any particular investigation regarding a library employee.
About five years ago, the city did help with a particular question about a library employee’s documented file, Rew said. The city determined the library had incorrectly documented the person’s personnel file, she said.