Taking it to court

Former Jaffrey library assistant Marilyn Simons, left, shown here with her attorney Heather M. Burns, at a public hearing last month about her termination, alleges in court documents she was fired because of age discrimination.

A long-term employee of the Jaffrey Public Library claims in court documents she was fired because of age discrimination, denied due process and was the subject of an illegal private meeting.

On June 30, Heather M. Burns, a partner at the Concord firm Upton & Hatfield, filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Cheshire County Superior Court on behalf of Marilyn Simons, a more than 40-year, part-time employee with the Jaffrey Public Library. The petition — filed against both the library and the town of Jaffrey — asks the court to review the decision the Jaffrey Public Library Board of Trustees made to terminate Simons’ employment and to grant her “just and equitable relief it deems appropriate.”

The trustees initially fired Simons, a library assistant, in a nonpublic meeting May 30, and then held a public hearing at Simons’ request to address the termination nearly a month later, June 26. That meeting was scheduled to allow Simons to hear the reasons for her termination and afford her the opportunity to defend her record.

The more than 6-hour hearing fluctuated between courtroom drama and public testimony — both for and against Simons — and ended with the trustees unanimously upholding the termination.

Burns, who didn’t return phone calls Monday afternoon seeking comment, states in the writ that Simons “repeatedly requested information regarding the non-public session and the reasons for her termination. Simons’ requests were denied.”

Furthermore, in her writ, Burns alleges the “real reason” for Simons’ termination was age discrimination.

Simons, 63, of Jaffrey, has declined to comment since seeking a redress of her complaints, referring all comments to Burns. Simons didn’t return a phone call from a reporter Monday.

Kelly E. Dowd, who represents the library trustees, was unavailable for comment Monday.

The trustees listed their reasons for firing Simons in three categories in their “Notice of Decision” for Simons’ termination: misfeasance, inefficiencies in duties, and incapacity and unfitness for the job. The notice is filed with the town of Jaffrey. The trustees state under those broad categories that Simons deleted library emails in violation of state law; used a personal email address instead of the general library email for library business; failed to check in books properly; misused library facilities after hours; was incompetent with technology; was unable to complete a simple supply spreadsheet; used the circulation desk to do work for her second job at Usborne Books while on the clock; displayed a poor attitude; was rude to staff, vendors and trustees; and was insubordinate, among other issues.

After the June 26 meeting, Burns expressed her displeasure with the hearing, saying Simons “never stood a chance.”

“They had made up their minds before the meeting,” Burns said after the hearing.

Meanwhile, Jaffrey Library Director Julie Perrin said Monday the Simons situation hasn’t been a distraction for library employees or patrons.

“Our patrons and employees have been very supportive,” Perrin said. “There has not been an atmosphere of gossip at all. We are just trying to keep our focus on the library.”

In fact, Perrin said the library just received word it’s one of 10 libraries in the nation to win a Teen Read Week Activity Grant award from Young Adult Library Services Association. Jaffrey is the only library in New Hampshire to receive this $1,000 grant, which helps teenagers with reading skills, Perrin said.

Besides Simons’ position, which hasn’t been filled, the library has two full-time employees and five part-timers, Perrin said. Simons worked 28 hours per week and made $16.55 per hour, according to library staff reports. Simons was set to mark her 41st year of working at the library this month.

“This whole thing with Marilyn (Simons) is unfortunate,” Perrin said. “I just hope we can all move on soon.”

Steve Whitmore can be reached at 355-8567, or swhitmore@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @swhitmoreKS.