Last Tuesday night the sheriff’s office received a call of a bomb threat at Newark’s public library.
Sheriff’s deputies and Rhome police responded, and Newark Mayor Matt Newby let them into the building. During a search of the premises nothing was located.
But concerns voiced by the librarian and library assistant over the bomb threat and a refusal to go back to work until they felt safe culminated in both women being fired by the city council in a special called meeting Monday night.
Council voted 4-0 to accept the “voluntary resignation” of library director Megan Suffling and library assistant Pat Winn. Laura Pixler, mayor pro tem and chair of the library board, abstained.
After discussing the issue with the city attorney, City Administrator Diane Rasor recommended the council reference a section of Newark’s personnel policy to terminate the positions. It reads if an employee fails to report for duty at a scheduled time it is considered a voluntary resignation.
“We never resigned,” Suffling told the council. “I never quit.”
Suffling and Winn met with Rasor and councilman Doug Anderson in the days after the bomb threat. Suffling stressed there are several patrons upset with how they’ve been treated, and she was worried about safety at the library for herself and other patrons until whoever made the threat is caught.
Anderson said they tried to work with Suffling, offering to hire an officer to remain at the library during operating hours for the next few days. They also suggested letting the librarians work at city hall next door for a couple days.
Suffling said she told Newby she would rather stay at home without pay than return to work when she didn’t feel safe.
When Suffling and Winn didn’t report to work Saturday morning, they received a voice mail from Rasor they would not be allowed to go into the library without supervision until after the special called meeting Monday night to discuss their employment.
After receiving the voice mail, Suffling entered the library later that morning to retrieve personal belongings. Two members of the library board accompanied her.
Four council members viewed the actions as ground for termination despite years of service to the city.
“We are dealing with two issues here,” said council member Chana Massey. “How to handle a bomb threat and insubordination.”
“It was hard for me to go into the library,” Suffling said. “There were pictures of the kids in there I was going to hand out at the end of summer reading party on Tuesday.
“I never dreamed I would lose my job because of my reaction to a bomb threat.”
Suffling had worked for the library for more than three years. She negotiated the move into the current building at low cost to the city.
“I really sunk my heart and soul into that library,” Suffling said. “I loved it there and loved most of the patrons.”
“The library has definitely taken strides since she has been here,” Mayor Newby said after the meeting. “It is like losing a member of the family.”