Under Courtney Kincaid’s leadership, the Hood County Library has grown, racking up just under 205,000 checkouts during fiscal year 2012 and staying on top of certification requirements.
But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been growing pains.
Since being promoted by county commissioners to the director’s spot in April 2011, a high turnover has resulted in stinging letters filed in the county’s Human Resources department. They include claims of a hostile work environment, employees being referred to by their boss as “monkeys” and possible age discrimination.
None of which is true, claims Kincaid.
“File it under ‘Fiction,’” she said.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Dick Roan on Monday blamed the letters on “one bad seed” – a volunteer who he suspects coached disgruntled employees and left notes critical of Kincaid inside shelved books. He also criticized a “cliquish” atmosphere that had involved immature behavior by those who had once been Kincaid’s co-workers and did not want to submit to her authority.
At the time of her promotion, Kincaid was the Children’s Librarian and also the library’s assistant director.
The library has six full-time and three part-time employees.
Seven employees had initially supported Kincaid when commissioners were seeking a new library director. A letter dated Feb. 28, 2011 was sent to then-Precinct 3 Commissioner Leonard Heathington, giving Kincaid a glowing recommendation.
“Courtney is a pleasant, generous person who is never afraid to take on any task,” the letter stated.
It went on to state that during her three years as Children’s Librarian, she had been “the driving force” behind “tremendous growth.”
The employees further cited her “excellent job performance” and the fact that she had “become a close friend to many of us.”
Only two of those employees are working at the library today.
Kincaid said that resentment toward her grew when she moved into “a more professional role,” no longer going to lunch with the employees she had come to supervise. She said she also began enforcing policies and writing up employees who failed to follow them.
“This is a professional atmosphere,” she said. “I run it professionally.”
One of the employees who resigned was recently approved for unemployment because of emotional duress, Kincaid said. Another, who cited a hostile work environment, did not get approved for the benefits.
A longtime patron of the library told the Hood County News that one of the former employees, with whom she was acquainted, had complained of retaliation and employees feeling they had nowhere to turn.
Kincaid noted that some of the patrons are personal friends of the disgruntled employees. She also stated that county Personnel Director Bob Blessing had attempted a mediation between her and the library staff last November, but the effort failed.
Youth Librarian Amanda King, who was hired in December, said that she observed the discord. She said that some of the employees who are now gone engaged in inappropriate behavior, bad-mouthing Kincaid in front of library patrons.
“I was pretty appalled at the way they behaved,” she said. “They were not okay with being told what to do. But things are wonderful now. The staff morale has gone way up.”
Roan said that any employee who feels they have valid claims of unlawful treatment in the workplace have avenues for recourse. None of the former employees have pursued such recourse, he said, and all quit of their own accord. None were fired.
“I don’t ever second-guess a manager’s decision,” he said. “When you choose a person for a job, then you’ve got to trust them to do the job.”
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