Harsh criticism of Sandra Cooper's management of the sprawling Sonoma County Library system is fueling calls for county supervisors to seek more authority over her position, a move that could put Cooper's job in jeopardy.
A Sonoma County grand jury report released late Wednesday called Cooper an "unresponsive" leader and claimed she micromanages her staff, edits minutes of meetings to paint herself in a more favorable light and makes arbitrary decisions that have alienated her from the public and from city and county officials.
Cooper faced similar criticism Tuesday during a budget hearing, where she was grilled by county supervisors for more than an hour. It was the second time since March that supervisors had asked Cooper to appear before them to discuss library operations.
Cooper declined to comment Wednesday. She was hired as library director in 2005 and is paid a base salary of $150,820, plus an additional $39,829 in benefits.
Cooper formerly was North Carolina's state librarian. In Sonoma County, she oversees 138 employees at 13 library branches and a budget of about $16 million.
Supervisors appear united in revisiting the joint powers agreement that was formed in 1975 and gives oversight of the library system to the city of Santa Rosa, the county and an independent library commission made up of seven volunteers.
The commission's members are appointed by supervisors and city councils in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. It has the sole authority to hire and fire the library director, who reports directly to its members.
Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the board's chairwoman, said Wednesday that she supports revising the operating agreement to give supervisors authority over the library director's position.
"That's got to be a consideration given that we approve the budget, and given the fact constituents come to us when they have a problem," she said.
Asked whether the board has confidence in Cooper's ability to continue leading the library, Zane would say only that "we have great concerns."
The grand jury report recommends that supervisors evaluate the library's leadership structure and follow up on what it called Cooper's "disuse" of the joint powers agreement. The nine-page report is titled "Whose Library Is It?"
The grand jury's investigation appears to have been sparked in part by a complaint that Cooper was holding up the purchase of new equipment for the children's section at the Guerneville library.
River Friends of the Library raised money to pay for the new equipment in 2009 and submitted a request for it to be ordered, according to Angie Orr, the group's past president.
But two years later, after the equipment had yet to arrive, members of the group confronted Cooper.
"She said it was on her to-do list," Orr said. "Of course, that led to an uproar."
Orr said the group demanded a refund of the money. It was returned two weeks ago.
Cooper also faced criticism after she decided to close the Sebastopol library for three weeks in May and June while staff relocated from a temporary site back to the main branch, which had undergone renovations.
In the face of protests, Cooper had the library resume operations temporarily in a space at the main branch.
Branch manager Sue Struthers said she "concurred" with Cooper's original decision to temporarily shut down the library because of the amount of work it required to keep it open on even a limited basis.
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