Library director on leave, trustee Largent to step down

The Farmington Community Library Board of Trustees placed director Riti Grover on paid leave Thursday, after a vote of no-confidence.

Both motions passed on a 4-3 vote, with trustee Bob Hahn absent.

That wasn’t the only unexpected action during the nearly five hour board meeting. During trustee comments, vice president Bill Largent announced his plan to resign.

‘Erosion of trust’

Trustee Danette Duron-Willner offered the initial motion, citing concerns over turmoil and an “erosion of trust” among staff, Grover, and the board. She said issues like a recent Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint, other adverse employment actions, and potential litigation had not been brought to the board in a timely manner.

“The symptoms of the turmoil and the lack of trust indicate to me that we lack health,” she said. “Ultimately, I can only turn to leadership to turn this with the board, but leadership that I no longer have confidence can do that for this library. It pains me to say this, that I don’t have confidence in the director at this point.”

Trustee Renee Murphy argued that the leadership problem existed long before Grover arrived last January.

“There has been an issue with the board and with the public for a long, long time,” she said. “I think the leadership problem we’re seeing is a board leadership problem, it is not about the director. I think we really need to look at ourselves and at the board as a whole.”

Largent said he was shocked by Duron-Willner’s motion, which was raised under new business.

“We’re looking at the symptom and not the cause,” he said, adding that Grover has been pulled back and forth by two factions of the board.  He placed the blame on board president Jim White’s leadership. “To pin this on Riti, shame on you, Danette.”

Grover was offered the opportunity to respond in writing in seven days. She may also request a closed meeting with trustees to discuss the actions.

The board designated library manager Kelley Siegrist as acting director during Grover’s absence.

‘Fierce and ugly resistance’ to change

In a lengthy statement at the close of the meeting, Largent called for the Farmington city council to not renew White’s term when it expires in June. He said previous board members and employees were responsible for the decline of the library system, including serious building issues that were addressed after he was appointed three years ago.

Largent said Grover found a “tired library in decline” when she arrived in January of 2020, and set about implementing needed changes, at the board’s direction.

“What she did not expect was the fierce and ugly resistance to change, positive change,” he said.

Largent said he and his wife have decided to live eight months a year in northern Michigan and intend to put their Farmington Hills home on the market. He said the April 15 board meeting was likely his last.

Farmington Hills city council members will also replace Paul Huyck, a long-serving trustee who will not seek reappointment. Huyck has headed up the library’s finance committee and served as board treasurer.

Watch the meeting, the “no confidence” vote discussion starts around the 3:27:40 mark, and Largent’s statement at 04:02:39 (due to a technical glitch, a brief section of public comment was not recorded):

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