Plattsburgh City Mayor Donald Kasprzak weighed in on the controversy surrounding the Plattsburgh Public library.
At a Dec. 15 meeting of the Plattsburgh Common Council, he and other lawmakers blasted members of the union that represents library employees for its criticism of the Plattsburgh Public Library Board of Directors. They said a generous contract, abuse of sick time and weak management are to blame for the deficit.
The lawmakers say they have been biting their tongue but will not stand by while a public demanding answers is provided with false or misleading information.
“You have a core of library employees who don't cooperate and are selfish and don't care about the hard-working people there,” said Mayor Donald Kasprzak.
Faced with a $150,000 deficit, the Plattsburgh Public library's Board of Directors voted Dec. 5 to eliminate four positions.
There has been much public outcry since then from library supporters, including suggestions from employees that they say would save the four positions. Those suggestions include several cuts elsewhere and asking the city of Plattsburgh for more money, though members of the library's Board of Directors have said the plan does not seem feasible.
Library supporters, especially local leaders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents library workers, have publicly criticized the Board of Directors, charging they may be responsible for the deficit and saying they’ve refused to work with them to save the four positions.
Some city lawmakers took issue with these criticisms Thursday night and said they had to speak out.
“It all has to do with the last contract that was negotiated and pay equity,” said Common Council member Chris Jackson. “The language in the contract is the craziest language I have ever seen.”
One employee received a 30-percent raise, he said, and a stipend enables employees to avoid contributing to their health insurance.
“Library employees accrue double the sick time than any other employee in the City of Plattsburgh.”
Kasprzak said one employee has accumulated 636 sick days since 1982.
“Someone is not really going to work when she is supposed to go to work and people have to go in her place and this all adds up,” Kasprzak said.
They are contractually obligated to work Saturdays and Kasprzak said employees instead call in sick.
And if they don't get their way, the mayor said, they file a grievance.
“Grievances cost money,” he said. “This adds to the deficit problem.”
“I wouldn't lay off those four individuals,” he continued. “I would lay off the people who have not been coming to work and abuse their sick time. But you can't do that because of seniority.”
The library has had weak management for the past four or five years, Kasprzak said, and the contract was “very generous.” Those factors and selfish employees are why there is a deficit, he said.
“To give more money to an enterprise that doesn't watch it right,” Kasprzak said, “that is not how I govern.”
He clarified that the library remains open 55 hours and is not being gutted. But it is losing “four good people.”
“This problem isn't going away,” Kasprzak said. “I tell the truth.”