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Longtime Jaffrey library assistant asks court to reconsider wrongful termination suit

Union Leader Correspondent

October 04. 2017 10:11PM
Former Jaffrey library assistant Marilyn Simons filed suit against the town and library trustees on June 30, 2017, alleging she was unlawfully terminated in May. (Meghan Pierce/Union Leader Correspondent)

JAFFREY — Former Jaffrey Public Library employee Marilyn Simons has filed a motion to the court to reconsider her wrongful termination suit in the Cheshire County Superior Court.

“Plaintiff maintains that the trustees did not have cause to terminate her, and that their proffered reasons for terminating her were pretextual, because the real reason for the termination was age discrimination,” Simons’ attorney, Heather M. Burns, said in the motion filed Sept. 21.

Kelly E. Dowd, the representing attorney for both the town and library, followed that up with a motion to dismiss on Friday.

“The Jaffrey Board of Trustees went above and beyond providing Marilyn Simons an opportunity to present her side of the story, the evidentiary basis for their conclusion to terminate Marilyn Simons was overwhelming, exhaustive and conclusive, and the Petition should remain dismissed,” Dowd wrote in the Sept. 29 filing.

Simons filed suit against the town and library trustees on June 30 alleging she was unlawfully terminated in May. Simons had worked for the library from 1976 to 2017.

Simons was fired at a Jaffrey Public Library Board of Trustees meeting on May 30 after working for the library for 41 years as a library assistant.

After her appeal of the trustees’ vote was denied at a public hearing in June, she alleged that ageism was the real reason behind her termination. She also alleged the nonpublic meeting in which she was fired without being present was unlawful.

In July, town officials and the Jaffrey Public Library Board of Trustees denied the charges of age discrimination in a motion and asked the judge to dismiss the suit.

Dowd answered for the town and library in a motion to dismiss in which he wrote that Simons was lawfully discharged and that the nonpublic meeting in which she was terminated also was lawful.

In a Sept. 12 decision, Cheshire County Superior Court judge David Ruoff sided with the town and its library trustees saying Simons failed to provide evidence to back up her claims.

In the motion to reconsider the case, Burns provided instances of alleged ageism and lack of due process from the June public hearing, including testimony from another library employee who said library director Julie Perrin made comments about how much money Simons made and how many weeks of paid vacation she had with the library.

“She makes almost as much money or as much money as the children’s librarian,” said the employee at the hearing, Burns wrote. “Do you have any idea what I could do with that money?”

Burns argued that Simons had a high hourly rate of pay and excessive vacation time due to her lengthy employment with the library, hence her age, and that Perrin was motivated to fire her because of that — not the other reasons put forth by the board of trustees.

Following the public hearing, the trustees listed many reasons why Simons was fired, including malfeasance and an inability to pick up new technology.

Burns also argues the lack of procedure at the hearing, saying witnesses should have been sworn in under oath, witnesses should have been required to testify and that she couldn’t cross-examine properly the way the trustees ran the public hearing.

Dowd said Wednesday if there is fault with how the public meeting was run it would lie with the state law regarding library employees, not with the trustees.

“I believe it’s a strange argument because the board of trustees has no power to make witnesses attend or take oaths. It would seem to suggest the statue itself is unconstitutional, if the plaintiffs are correct,” he said.

Dowd said he expects a decision from the judge in about 60 days.

Courts Local and County Government Jaffrey

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