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North Versailles library board axes director and assistant

| Thursday, July 25, 2013, 5:21 a.m.

The director of the North Versailles Public Library and his first assistant have been fired by the library's board of trustees.

Director Michael Kowalcheck and Karen Schmidt-Ramsey were notified on Wednesday, the same day a story appeared in The Daily News about the board of trustees demoting Schmidt-Ramsey from children's librarian to clerk.

Trustees Mary Ann Fetsick and Sharon Dunbar, accompanied by three township police officers, arrived at the library about 15 minutes before it closed at 4 p.m. to notify Kowalcheck that he has been fired.

Kowalcheck, who has worked for the library since 1994 and has been director since 2001, said the trustees gave him a letter that said, “You have not been following instructions and directions of the board and therefore we are terminating your employment immediately.”

“I told them, ‘You don't need the police officers,'” Kowalcheck said.

He said Fetsick left with two of the officers, but Dunbar and one officer remained while he gathered his personal belongings.

“I guess they were making sure I wouldn't take anything,” he said.

It was unclear on Wednesday night if the library would open on Thursday. Only one other part-time employee is on the payroll.

Fetsick, who is the township tax collector, and Dunbar, who works in the tax office, could not be reached for comment.

When questioned Tuesday about Schmidt-Ramsey's demotion and her five-hours-per-week schedule reduction, Fetsick said only that it was related to the trustees' lack of an adequate description of her job duties.

Kowalcheck said there have been some differences between staff and the trustees, mostly related to questions of library bylaws. He said he tried to schedule a meeting with the Allegheny County Library Association to examine some of the issues but the meeting never happened.

He said questions had arisen regarding conflicts of interest and the qualifications of some library trustees. Kowalcheck said he notified the library association of the firings via email on Wednesday afternoon.

Schmidt-Ramsey declined to comment. Her husband, Kevin Ramsey, said Dunbar called his wife on Wednesday while she was on vacation and told her she was fired.

“To get this slap in the face like this is just unreal,” he said.

Schmidt-Ramsey was employed by the library for eight years.

The library's seven-member board of trustees is appointed by commissioners.

Township commissioner Sam Juliano said news of the firings took him by surprise.

He said he met with Fetsick on Wednesday to discuss plans for an upcoming community day when she told him about the firings, but didn't elaborate.

“I was shocked to hear this,” said Juliano, who said Fetsick told him it was a personnel matter and that trustees would share the details with commissioners later.

“I really don't know much to report to you on the situation,” Juliano said.

Juliano said Schmidt-Ramsey contacted him on Friday about meeting with him and board of commissioners president George Thompson to discuss problems at the library, and that he was planning to arrange one.

“We're definitely going to be looking into the matter,” said Juliano, who said he's been getting calls from township residents about library programs that were cut when Schmidt-Ramsey's was demoted.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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