Urbana Free Library Board approves separation contract with former library executive director

URBANA — The Urbana Free Library Board has approved a separation contract with former library Executive Director Debra Lissak.

The board voted 9-0 Tuesday night to accept the contract, which board President Chris Scherer said has already been signed by Lissak.

The board had been pursuing a separation agreement with Lissak following a recent controversy over the “weeding” of books from the adult nonfiction section of the library.

While the contract will allow Lissak to continue to work as a library employee through July 5, 2014, it provides for somebody else to serve as executive director, according to library board member Scott Bennett.

“I know there has been some frustration the last couple months,” Bennett said. “It has been frustrating not only for the patrons, but also for the board members.

“What we have at this time is what, we believe, to be a mutually agreeable terminal employee agreement.”

Bennett said that Lissak’s previous employment contract required her to receive one year’s notice before she could be terminated.

“Until that time, she could continue to be the executive director,” Bennett said. “It was decided at the July meeting that we would pursue a mutual separation agreement. Until that agreement is reached, Ms. Lissak would continue to be the executive director by that contract, whether or not she was here. We would not be able to put another executive director in until we have that result.”

Under the contract approved on Tuesday, the library board agrees to pay Lissak through July 2014 at her normal salary and benefits rate, Bennett said.

“But she would no longer have the title or the duties of the library’s executive director,” Bennett said.

Minutes after approving the contact, the library board voted unanimously to reaffirm its selection of Kathy Wicks as acting executive director.

“But given Ms. Lissak’s breadth of experience, her institutional knowledge and relationships, she will continue to assist the acting executive director, Ms. Wicks, and eventually the new executive director ... if requested by the acting executive director or executive director during the transition,” Bennett said.

The board also named Robert Burger, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, to head a search committee for the permanent executive director.

Board member Mary Ellen Farrell said it would be a national search.

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