Members of the New City Library Board of Trustees took early steps in the process of getting rid of President Terri Thal.
The motion was brought up by board member Tom Ninan as the last item on the agenda under “New Business,” which extended the meeting more than an hour as it ran until 10:30 p.m., an hour and a half after the library closed.
“It gives me with great sadness that I’m going to present this to the board, but with great jubilation that if this is accomplished, I want the board to understand that it is for the betterment of the library itself,” Ninan said. “It needs to be addressed.”
He went on to say that he feels Thal has “failed to recognize any board member who expresses his or her thoughts.”
Board members argued on and off about whether they could even vote to take away Thal’s presidency, but the vote itself didn’t occur Thursday night. Eventually, it was decided that Ninan would have to send his list of factual complaints to a three-person committee, which was determined at Thursday’s meeting. The committee is made up of Trustees Ed Kallen, Anthony Feliciano and Matthew Mulrooney. The three of them will then take as much time as needed to investigate the complaints.
Since Thal took over as president and the new board was set in place at the beginning of the year, each of their meetings has been tense with arguing throughout.
On Thursday, Thal appeared over arguing at times, even telling Ninan he was going about getting rid of her incorrectly.
“I’m doing something really weird,” Thal told Ninan. “I’m telling you that while you’re just trying to dump me as president, what this says is that you can only dump me as a trustee.”
Ninan called for a motion to remove Thal as board president, and it was seconded by Feliciano. After some discussion, instead of throwing it to vote, which is how other motions are normally handled. Thal said the motion was out of order and didn’t let the board vote on it.
Ninan said Thal didn’t have the power to call a motion out of order once it had been accepted and seconded. Thal said Ninan wasn’t going about the process of getting rid of her, whether as president or from the board altogether, correctly, and so his motion was out of order.
After a few minutes, Thal called for a motion to adjourn, which didn’t pass. Some people in the audience, which at the start of the meeting had roughly 50 people and at that point two hours later was down to around 35, vocally said they couldn’t believe what they were witnessing. One woman said it was “appalling” how “dysfunctional” the board was.
“I’m appalled by this board, too. The things that people vote on, they don’t vote for, they vote against. They choose to abstain. You’re abdicating no responsibility to the community,” Trustee Jeffrey Greenberg said to members of the board trying to vote out Thal. “You collectively are disgusting.”
Since the meeting was technically adjourned, the board members had to stick around. Some read through the board’s bylaws or Robert’s Rules of Order, a book used country-wide to deal with a group’s parliamentary procedure, or the rules for governing a meeting. Others had conversations amongst themselves or with people in the audience.
After about 20 minutes with no large discussion by the board, they started up again, still not able to come to an agreement on whether or not Ninan’s motion should’ve gone to vote.
“There is a process you have to go through. You can’t just get up one day and say, ‘You’re gone.’ You’ve got to go through a process,” Thal said. “I am adjourning the meeting. I suggest that you go home, read, figure out what the process is and do it.”
The meeting didn’t end there, though. Ninan said he was following the board’s bylaws.
“With all due respect, we have researched it,” he said. “Our bylaws state what it states, I have invoked it, I have presented to you, it was seconded and it is now in your opinion that you’re telling me that I’m out of order after the second motion was accepted on the floor and you did not let it go through its full course.”
Ninan had the bylaws with them and then read from them during the meeting. He quoted first section four from page six.
“Any officer may be removed or suspended by the board for the same causes that govern the removal or suspension of trustees,” Ninan read. “The removal or suspension shall be a vote of two-thirds of the full board.”
The board then discussed whether its own bylaws take precedence or they go by Robert’s Rule of Order. Some felt the board’s bylaws come first while others thought the board lives by the book. Ninan said the bylaws note what to do in such a situation.
“Unless otherwise provided by in these bylaws, conduct of all meetings of the board shall governed by the current edition of Robert’s Rule of Order,” he read from page five of the bylaws.
Even as the meeting passed the three-hour mark and the crowd dwindled down to about 10, things remained tense, which is the same way the meeting started when it opened with a discussion of the board’s recent .
Kallen said the vote shouldn’t just be brought up and conducted without a list of charges against Thal. Instead, he said, she should have time to look at what she is being accused of her and be able to defend herself.
“How can we on one hand say we must respect the flag and on the other say the Constitution and our rules be damned?” Kallen said, adding Thal should have a right to defend herself and the right to due process.
Eventually, it was decided that Ninan can send his list of complaints to the committee as soon as he wants, and they can meet to start investigating them. The investigation has no time limit. Ninan wanted to add a special meeting before next month’s, but nothing was agreed upon.