The Board of Directors of the Fort Myers Beach Library met for a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, January 22, 2019, but it was anything but business as usual as they dealt with the aftermath of the death of Library Director Dr. Leroy Hommerding two days before. The business of an Interim Library Director, a Memorial Service, reordering of financial accounts and swearing in of new board members had to be taken care of whether anyone felt up to it or not.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office released the library on Monday. That afternoon, more than two dozen volunteers emptied the parking garage of books that had been part of the weekend Book Sale. Library staff met early Tuesday and the Library opened for business at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
At 6:30 p.m. Library Board President Sallie Seabury brought the meeting to order in front of about two dozen attendees and immediately called for a minute of silence. During most ‘moments of silence’ there is ambient noise. Someone clears their throat, shifts in their chair, drops a pen, something. During this minute, it was totally silent in that room, as if even the air-conditioning fans dared not run in the face of such grief.
Seabury then explained that the agenda would be different than the one originally planned. She opened the floor for public comment, cautioning those who would speak to be brief and not discuss criminal actions or the homeless. Over a dozen people spoke in memory of Dr. Hommerding. Board member Rick Sebastian remembered Dr. Hommerding’s “humor and smile and gentle manner, coupled with intelligence.”
Another board member, Miffie Greer, said, “I don’t know how we’ll get along without Leroy, but I know we will. We’re a strong group. We’re a strong community. We believe in his vision.”
Seabury read letters of condolence from the President of the American Library Association, the Executive Director of the Florida Library Association, School Board member Cathleen Morgan and Fort Myers Beach Mayor Tracey Gore.
Ron Fleming said, “He was the most gentle, genuine person I’ve ever met. He will be deeply missed.”
Seabury then introduced Anne Dalton, former Library Board Attorney, and asked for a vote to appoint her as Interim Library Attorney, noting that she may not be able to serve long term. The appointment was approved unanimously.
Dalton then swore in new board members Jan Fleming and Erik LaFave.
Interim Director Chosen
Cletus Poser, Reference Librarian, was selected unanimously to serve as Interim Library Director via Resolution 2019-01. The resolution authorizes Poser to handle all Library District obligations including financial responsibilities on a temporary basis so that the district can conduct a national search for a permanent Library Director. He will be paid the same as Hommerding was and is authorized to hire and/or promote staff so that he is free to perform the duties of Library Director. The Interim Director appointment will continue on a month to month basis until a permanent Library Director is hired.
The board took a short recess while a banker obtained signatures for the various library accounts.
Sebastian volunteered and was unanimously approved to handle all media and Lee County Sheriff’s Office inquiries to the board.
Jan Fleming and Sebastian volunteered to oversee the Memorial Service for Dr. Hommerding to be held on Saturday, January 26 at 1 p.m. in the Library parking garage. The board authorized a maximum expenditure for the service and family/board/staff reception afterwards of $1,500.
The board then approved a slate of officers: President Sallie Seabury; Vice-President George Ballantyne; Treasurer Miffie Greer and Secretary Jan Fleming.
Ballantyne agreed to work with Poser to bring options for a search for a permanent Library Director back to the board in February. After the board approved a motion to table all Old Business agenda items until next month’s meeting, Board Attorney Anne Dalton gave a brief Sunshine Law reminder.
“All board business must be done in the sunshine,” Dalton said. “The liaisons appointed today may not discuss what they are doing with any other board member, including the chair, outside of an open board meeting. Our Interim Director is not permitted to repeat info from one director to another. All documents created are public documents.”
With that the board adjourned at 8:03 p.m. The next Library Board meeting will be held on February 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Beach Library’s 3rd floor Community Room.
By Missy Layfield