Crawford County Library Board appoints interim director

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 914 views 

During a special called meeting Friday (Feb. 24), the Crawford County Library Board appointed Eva White interim director of the Crawford County Library System in the wake of Deidre Grzymala’s surprise resignation from the position.

The Crawford County Quorum Court on Feb. 21 approved an ordinance that authorized the county to pay Grzymala $40,687.50, which includes $687.50 in Grzymala’s personal and sick time, as part of a severance agreement that was initially to be a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). The ordinance also states that the county will continue to pay for Gryzmala’s health and dental insurance through Sept. 1.

The NDA, obtained by Talk Business & Politics through an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (AFOIA) request, stated that both parties agreed to keep the severance package “under the strictest confidence and agree not to disclose the terms …”

The NDA did not mention any reason for Grzymala’s resignation. Crawford County Quorum Court attorney Gentry Wahlmeier said he did not have correspondence regarding Gryzmala’s resignation or the agreement drafted by him between Gryzmala and the county.

“As for any correspondence, no law requires me to keep records of that and I did not. As far as I am aware, the county judge nor his office has ever shared separate correspondence with Ms. Grzymala,” Wahlmeier said. (Talk Business & Politics President Michael Tilley responded to Wahlmeier Friday afternoon, noting in part, “Again, the AFOIA notes that any documents produced by public officials with public assets ‘shall be presumed to be public records.’ I find it difficult to believe that a four-page NDA – with signatures – and a two-page ordinance was drafted without any parties discussing language, terms, and other details. Indeed, the law requires you, if acting as the legal agent for the county, to collect the requested public documents and make them immediately available.” As of late Friday, the county had not responded in full to the legal request made Feb. 22.)

Grzymala said Wednesday she was obligated under the NDA to not speak about her resignation. When Grzymala was informed that the severance agreement had been made public because it was never legal under state law, and she would not be breaking any agreement, she said she was still obliged to comply. Tammi Hamby, chair of the Crawford County Library Board, also declined to comment on the resignation and said earlier in the week that “nothing was discussed between her (Grzymala) and I at all ever about this.”

White will begin Monday (Feb. 27) as the interim director and will continue in the position until a new director is hired. The position pays about $50,000 annually, Hamby said. White will receive that salary while she is in the interim position, she added. The board does not have a timeline on when a new director will be hired. Hamby said the board would advertise the position, go through the proper channels and then conduct interviews

“We will do it as fast as possible, but we’ll have to go through the proper channels,” Hamby said.

White was the library director for Crawford County from 1999 to 2012 and then again from 2013 to January 2021. She said she retired during the COVID pandemic at a time when she was experiencing knee problems. She has since had two knee replacements and is “ready to go back to work.”

Gryzmala’s tenure with the library has been overshadowed by controversy over LBGQT+ material in the library since November. Hamby, who was appointed as chair of the library board in January, and her husband Dr. Jeffrey Hamby, a Van Buren family physician, spearheaded a campaign against LBGQT+ books being available through the Crawford County Library System and Grzymala’s book display of LBGQT+ children’s books set up at the Van Buren Public Library in November. Hamby was appointed to the Crawford County Library Board and named the board chair by Crawford County Judge Chris Keith after Jamie Balkman, former chair, and two other board members resigned after a contentious Quorum Court meeting in December.

After the protest by the Hambys, Grzymala said she believed everyone had reached a compromise and the books had been moved to their own section at each of the Crawford County Library System’s five libraries.

Hamby also attempted during a special Jan. 17 library board meeting to challenge Gryzmala on alleged budget concerns. However, board members explained to Hamby that library board had approved all spending for the year and the contract for the expenses dealing with updating the library’s computers, wi-fi and other technology was signed in March 2022, before Grzymala was hired at the library director in July.