Library staff upset as Becker dumps a key ally
Salt Lake City library employees who survived the tumultuous administration of former Director Beth Elder say they've lost a leading advocate as a result of an edict by Mayor Ralph Becker.
Mark Alvarez, the first member of the Salt Lake City Library Board to raise alarm over Elder, has been told by the mayor's chief of staff, David Everitt, that he need not apply for a second three-year term.
Elder, facing a revolt from library employees, resigned in October. The board had given her a new contract six months earlier, in April 2011, with Alvarez casting the lone dissenting vote.
Alvarez said Thursday he had received a terse telephone message from Everitt last week, saying that his name would not be forwarded to the City Council for reappointment to the board. He quoted the chief of staff as saying the city was "going in a different direction."
There is no doubt, Alvarez said, that the action is related to the Elder imbroglio that left nerves frayed from the Main Library to City Hall.
"My presence on the board was a reminder of the bad decision they made [to renew Elder's contract in April]," Alvarez said, "and the money it cost."
But Becker spokesman Art Raymond said Alvarez's actions on the board had nothing to do with the decision to deny him a second three-year term.
"We're always looking to represent all areas of the city on the board," Raymond said. "Board member Liz Gupta is from the same district, and we had an opportunity to appoint someone from an area without representation."
But library board Chairman Kevin Werner was not quite so complimentary, saying some of Alvarez's actions during Elder's tenure left board members uncomfortable.
"Based on our experience over the past year, and Mark's sometimes nonstandard approach to his responsibility as a board member, I'm not surprised [he was told not to reapply]."
By contrast, library staffers are "demoralized" by the news, said Brooke Young, a Library Employees Organization board member.
"The staff is pretty upset that he was not asked to reapply," she said. "He was the only advocate for the staff during that [Beth Elder] period."
Alvarez's term ends Saturday. In an interview, he said he was in the process of deciding whether he would apply for another term when he got the call from Everitt.
"There was no thank you whatsoever," Alvarez said. "That was pretty rude with respect to a volunteer."
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