The Farmington Community Library board voted 4-3 in favor of putting Director Riti Grover on paid administrative leave.

The Farmington Community Library board voted 4-3 in favor of putting Director Riti Grover on paid administrative leave.

File photo by Deb Jacques


Farmington library director on leave amid leadership conflicts

By: Zachary Manning | Farmington Press | Published June 10, 2021

FARMINGTON — Though things may seem normal at the Farmington Community Library, the last few months have been anything but.

At the April 15 library board meeting, Trustee Danette Duron-Willner made a motion for a vote of no confidence for the leadership of Director Riti Grover, which was supported by Trustee Megan Stryd.

With a vote of 4-3 in favor of no confidence, the board also voted 4-3 in favor of placing Grover on paid administrative leave, where she has been for the last couple of months.

Currently, Kelley Siegrist is the interim director of the library. Board President Jim White noted that the board and Grover have not spoken directly since her move to administrative leave.

“I was a little surprised. For a long time, I thought I was alone in my feelings,” White said. “To me, I didn’t know what other board members were exactly thinking.”

 

Leadership problems
Those in favor of dismissing Grover from her position, including the Farmington Friends of the Library, allege that there has been a lack of leadership, and that the relationship and trust between the director and staff haven’t been good.

Those in support of Grover, such as board Vice President Bill Largent and Secretary Renee Murphy, note that there have been leadership issues at the library well before Grover took over and they say she was used merely as a scapegoat.

Duron-Wilner, Styrd, White and Trustee Michele Kelly voted yes on the motion, while Largent, Murphy and Trustee Paul Huyck voted no. Robert Hahn was absent, and Grover was present to hear the motion pass. The same vote was made in regards to paid administrative leave.

To some in the meeting, the motion came as a surprise, and White said there was no plan prior to the meeting to bring the matter up. However, board members had talked individually, and the lack of trust had been building for some time, he said.

In a letter penned in response to the Farmington Friends of the Library’s support of the vote of no confidence, Largent said that “the reward for working 18-hour days, 6-7 days a week, all these accomplishments, constantly dealing with resistance from board members, staff and a microcosm of the community? Riti is on paid administrative leave, has watched helplessly as her character and abilities were publicly scorched and fears her career may be ruined simply because she carried out the wishes of the board.”

On the other side, White said there were a few reasons he decided to vote yes on the motion.

“Just for myself, there were a number of reasons why I am not satisfied with the state of things at the library. As of April 15, how staff was feeling, how the community was feeling, how Riti was communicating about issues and her willingness to take responsibility for certain issues,” White said.

He added that he had doubts about Grover’s ability since last September, but he also said that not all of the issues with the library are Grover’s fault.

The Friends of the Library published a letter in support of the vote, saying, “we have witnessed the deteriorating relationship between the current library director and the library staff. And we have been extremely saddened to see the damage to the library’s reputation and relations between the library and the community. The Friends board has heard directly from members who are unhappy with the direction the library has taken in the past several months.”

Grover said she wasn't given a fair chance to prove herself and was pushed out unjustly.

"Why was I subjected to toxicity, bias, name calling, humiliation, unsafe work environment, cyberbullying, and retaliation amongst many other things ever since I joined as Director at FCL last year? I was told I was doomed, I was threatened and slandered," Grover said in an email.

Like Largent, Grover saw the issues prior to joining the library. After joining, she said she noticed a ton of problems, including what she calls archaic accounting practices and systems; lack of internal controls; lack of separation of human resources and accounting services; discrepancies in federal and state unemployment tax reporting; and many other things.

She also noted that in the face of those problems, she was also faced with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"Despite all the above challenges, I led the organization with the sole objective of serving our community throughout the pandemic and meeting their current and future needs while upholding the policies and decisions of my Board," Grover said in an email. "As we come out of one of the most tumultuous year of our lives, I am proud to have instituted the latest and reliable service assessment, circulation, accounting, payroll, HR and IT systems, software & tools that will serve the 90,000+ residents of Farmington Hills and Farmington well for years ahead."

Overall, Grover feels she was a great asset to the library and was treated unfairly from the beginning.

"What did I get in return for enhancing a community asset – persistent public humiliation, slandering, mental agony, microaggression, discrimination, harassment and retaliation! This ‘pretext’ and attempt to push me out felt exactly what it was meant to be - a stab in the gut," Grover said. "What’s the use of adopting resolutions on diversity and inclusion when a qualified woman of color, who does not sound or look like majority, is pushed out of the top leadership by hook or crook?" she said in the email.

Board vacancies open up
In the trustees comments portion of the meeting, Largent announced that he would be resigning from the board. He said he and his wife have decided to sell their house and move from Farmington Hills.

Huyck will also be leaving the board, as he will not seek reappointment. This leaves administration with two positions open on the board, as well as a need to decide what to do with the director’s spot.