By John Burton
RED BANK — It is all about moving forward for the Red Bank Public Library, said Mayor Pasquale Menna as he named new members for the library’s Board of Trustees Wednesday evening, replacing members who recently resigned in protest.
In a quickly convened public Borough Council meeting held last night, Menna offered his selection of names to fill the board for the library, 84 W. Front St. Menna’s picks are: Beth Hanratty, who had previously been president of the Friends of the Red Bank Library, an independent fundraising organization, will replace John Grandits, the former president; Mary Beth Maida, whose appointment will take the place of Brigid McCarthy, who had been the board treasurer; Stephen Hecht, who Menna named to replace Patricia Moss, who resigned in March, but whose resignation is not related to the controversy that prompted the other board members to step down; and Sarah Hansen, who is taking the place of Audrey Oldoerp, another of the dissenting board members who tendered her resignation last Saturday.
April Klimley will continue to serve on the board, Menna added. Klimley was the one trustee who did not step down when the others did last week.
Menna said it was necessary to hold the special meeting to name the new members, as opposed to waiting until the next scheduled council meeting (which would be April 24), “to get the library back running as quickly as possible.”
As mayor, Menna said he is a voting member of the board, but hasn’t been attending meeting. That will change as Menna said he plans to regularly participate at the monthly meetings. While a mayor is a member of the board of trustees as per the library’s bylaws, Menna said he had followed in the tradition of at least the three previous administrations and named an alternative. That, he said, helped ensure the board’s independence. Menna had come under fire for not being more involved.
Menna’s alternate, Denelle Godek, was another of the six board members to resign.
Another seat, traditionally held for the borough’s superintendent, had been vacant since the superintendent retired last spring. Menna said he would ask the Board of Education to have the school district’s business administrator or another candidate serve until a new superintendent is named.
The next board of trustees meeting is scheduled for April 24.
Borough officials had become embroiled in a dispute with the library board over the library’s budget and steps the board took to shore up a looming $131,000 budget deficit that, board members said, threatened the library’s very existence if not addressed. The board offered a budget that included staff layoffs, slashing operating hours and eliminating and curtailing programs. Borough officials had insisted the board adopt its alternative budget and rehire two full-time employees facing layoffs. Board members saw this as an affront to the board’s independence and decided to step aside after much consternation.
“We never said no” to the board, always willing to continue discussions, Menna contended. “All of us here,” he said, indicating to the borough council, “always offered to come to the table and offer assistance.”
In addition to the board of trustees, Virginia Papandrea, the library’s executive director,who was scheduled to retire at month’s end, this week abruptly resigned.
Library board members, serve five-year terms and receive no compensation.