Crawford County Library System director resigns; severance package approved

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 4,022 views 

The Crawford County Library System director who came under fire for placing LGBTQ+ books in the library has resigned and will receive a severance package of more than $40,000. The Crawford County Quorum Court approved the severance deal Feb. 21.

The Quorum Court approved an ordinance that states that the county’s treasurer will pay Deidre Grzymala $40,687.50 by Friday (Feb. 24). The amount includes Grzymala’s personal and sick time. The ordinance also states that the county will continue to pay for Gryzmala’s health and dental insurance through Sept. 1.

Dr. Tammi Hamby said Wednesday (Feb. 22) that Gryzmala had resigned her position as director of the Crawford County Library System effective Friday. A special meeting of the Crawford County Library Board has been called for 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Van Buren Public Library to discuss the appointment of an interim library director.

“We will put someone in temporarily. Then we will post the position and start the search for a new director,” Hamby said.

FOIA REQUEST
She would not discuss the resignation or any details of the severance package. Gryzmala said she was not allowed to discuss her resignation because of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

However, an NDA with public officials in which public dollars are involved is not allowed according to Arkansas law. Specifically, Arkansas Code Ann. 25-18-401 states:
“No public official or employee acting in behalf of a governmental agency or another agency wholly or partially supported by or expending public funds shall:
(1)  Agree or authorize another to agree that all or part of a litigation settlement agreement to which the agency is a party shall be kept secret, sealed, or otherwise withheld from public disclosure; or
(2)  Seek a court order denying public access to any court record or other document containing the terms of a settlement agreement resolving a claim by or against the agency.”

Additionally, Ark. Code Ann. 25-18-402 grants only the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration the power to enter agreements that are confidential “if the subject matter of the agreement is protected from public disclosure by the Freedom of Information Act of 1967.”

Talk Business & Politics on Wednesday sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Crawford County Judge Chris Keith asking for details of the severance agreement and any correspondence related to the director’s resignation and/or her decision to resign.

CONTROVERSY BACKGROUND
Gryzmala was hired as the director of the Crawford County Library System in July 2022. Her 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 after Jamie Balkman, former chair, and two other board members resigned after a contentious Quorum Court meeting in December.

The Hambys sent a letter to the Quorum Court and Crawford County Judge, dated Nov. 10, that noted: “We are concerned about the agenda that is being pushed by the Van Buren Public Library, aiming education of alternative lifestyles to prepubescent children. We have friends and employees that choose to live alternative lifestyles that we love dearly. We do not agree with that lifestyle but acknowledge their right to live the way they choose to live. We are not trying to infringe on those rights in any way. Our issue is with the constitutional rights of parents and our religious liberties being infringed upon by this progressive woke ideology normalizing and equating homosexual and transsexual lifestyles with heterosexual family units,” the letter said. “And doing this without parental consent or the ability to opt out. They have purchased, with taxpayer money, several books about alternative lifestyles that are aimed at prepubescent children. Some of these books are available in board book form which tells you the age they are targeting.”

Grzymala said at the time she believed everyone was reaching a compromise and the books had been moved to their own section at each of the Crawford County Library System’s five libraries.

At a Jan. 10 meeting of the library board, Hamby presented a motion outlining basic criteria for assessing the merits of a requested book (not self-published, NYT bestseller, not $100+, etc), which are the normal criteria most library directors, including Grzymala, already use. Hamby, introduced an amendment to this motion that would take the decision on whether requested books were added to the library from the director and have the board approve or deny any new book requests. The motion was tabled until the next library board meeting March 14.

In a special called meeting of the board Jan. 17, Hamby questioned Grzymala about spending. After more than an hour of a circling discussion on whether Grzymala had authority to pay the bills once she knew the library’s budget was getting tight, Keith Pigg, the library board member from Mulberry, said the 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.

The debate at the board meeting revolved around the library’s budget going $9,000 over the combined total of budgeted 2022 funds and $100,000 in discretionary funds for 2022, even though the library had an account balance of $624,000. Later that night, the Crawford County Quorum Court approved a budget amendment of $25,000 additional funds for the library to pay expenses, which authorized the library going that $9,000 over budget.