HUDSON FALLS -- After 28 years as an aide at the Hudson Falls Free Library, Lita Casey said, she was “stunned” to get a telephone call from a member of the library’s board of trustees Monday night, telling her she had been fired.
She said she believes the action is related to a controversy over the library’s summer reading program.
The decision, made by the board Monday night, came days after board President Michael Herman confirmed that Director Marie Gandron, who had been at the library 41 years, was no longer employed there.
“I could not believe it, and I still cannot believe it,” Casey said Tuesday.
She said she was called by board member Michael Mercure, who is a lawyer and the Washington County public defender.
“I asked why I was being terminated, and I was told the board would not give a reason. I asked if I could come down and talk to the board. He went away for a minute, came back and said no.
“I worked there for 28 years without a complaint,” said Casey, who also taught nursery school for 42 years. “I have to believe it was related to the whole reading controversy.”
The uproar over the reading contest, which drew international attention, occurred over the summer when Gandron said she intended to change the rules of the contest, and Casey opposed the change.
Nine-year-old Tyler Weaver won the six-week “Dig Into Reading” competition this year, the fifth-consecutive year he has won.
Gandron told a reporter she had wanted to change the way prizes were awarded because Weaver “hogs” the contest. Casey, who got to know the boy because of all the time he spent in the library, told Gandron she felt that was unfair.
Herman confirmed Friday that Gandron, who had been with the library 41 years, was no longer working there, and he confirmed Tuesday morning that Casey was no longer employed there, although he would not say why.
“I can confirm that Lita Casey is no longer employed at the library. I cannot comment further on any personnel issues,” he said in an email Tuesday.
He said much the same thing about Gandron on Friday.
Herman did say the library has begun the process of replacing Gandron.
“We have begun the process of selecting and hiring an interim director for the library,” he said.
Casey, who worked in the children’s room, said that despite her relationship with Weaver, she would have raised the issue no matter what child was affected by a change in the contest rules.
“It wasn’t because it was Tyler. I had heard from someone else that she planned the change, and I said ‘That’s not right, you don’t penalize a child for reading,’ ” Casey said. “So she told me she would just change it for next summer.”
Before speaking with Gandron, Casey talked to Herman, the board president, who told her he did not have an issue with the change.
Casey was quoted in a Post-Star article about the reading program as saying she felt the change would be “ridiculous.”
According to the library’s website, Gandron and Casey were among six employees of the library, which is open 35 hours per week.
Weaver’s mother Katie said she thought the decision to fire Casey was unfair.
“Her whole life has been given to the kids at that library,” Weaver said. “For them to do that to her is just awful.”
Casey said she was personally hurt by the decision.
“I am so disappointed in the board for failing to recognize the years I have put in,” she said. “I am going to miss it.”