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Krum City Council to discuss library director

The Krum City Council will meet in executive session at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the city library director, who was placed on paid administrative leave earlier this month after a former employee filed a complaint alleging her of misconduct.

This is the council's first meeting since May 8 when a special meeting was called to discuss allegations received in a May 1 complaint regarding Donna Pierce, the city's library director of 10 years. Tuesday's meeting will take place at Krum City Hall, 146 W. McCart St.

According to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Denton Record-Chronicle, Pat Thomas, an employee of 14 months, accuses Pierce, who is white, of using racial slurs, verbally abusing her in front of patrons, creating a hostile work environment and engaging with patrons "in inappropriate political discussions" resulting in some patrons becoming uncomfortable.

Thomas, who is black, said she filed the complaint because of unfair and unjust treatment and derogatory remarks made to her by Pierce. She said it wasn't out of revenge or retaliation but to stand up for herself. 

Throughout the course of her time working at the Krum library, she said Pierce made remarks that made her feel horrible and angry. In her complaint she references an instance in which she was cleaning a table and Pierce complimented her, stating her family "use to have a colored gal working for them" who cleaned well also.

The allegations were discussed in open session May 8 at the request of Pierce, before a room with dozens of residents supporting Pierce. Also discussed were unrelated inappropriate uses of electronic communication while at work and performance issues. While council members took no action on the matter at the time, they said the investigation should continue, including interviews with Pierce and library and city staff.

When asked to respond to the allegations May 8, Pierce explained her side of the story, refuting that things were as they were presented and concluded with "I'm not a racist."

"I've always just tried to do my job to the best of my ability and to do the right thing, and I will keep my mouth shut from [this] point on" Pierce said Monday.

She was placed on administrative leave May 5 and an investigation began around the same time. As of last week, Pierce was still on paid administrative leave, according to Andrea Dzioba, the city secretary and human resources director.

Pierce said she has since spoken with the city attorney but declined to comment on what was discussed. She said she didn't feel comfortable at this time talking about the discussion and that she didn't "want to get into trouble."

Thomas said that while she's not saying she wants Pierce terminated, she would like to see her undergo a course in how to interact with people of diverse backgrounds.

"My personal opinion —  she needs to go and take a cultural diversity course ... [where] she understands how to treat people different from herself," Thomas said. "I don't mean just African-Americans.

"She definitely needs to learn how to treat people. That's what I would like to see happen."

As for Thomas, she said she would like to return to work. She said she's not worked since filing her complaint. She had worked 20 hours a week for the city through a nonprofit program that is federally funded and pays the salaries of the people it places in the workforce.

Repeated calls to Mayor Ron Harris over the last week by the Denton Record-Chronicle have gone unanswered. Earlier this month, he said the city intended to take a couple of weeks to complete an internal investigation into the allegations and present the findings to council members.

"We owe the complainant respect to take a look at what they're alleging, and we're investigating that," Harris said at the time. "At this point there's been no decision, and once we've made a decision, everyone will know about it."

In a May 9 Facebook post, Harris wrote that any allegations of misconduct by a city employee have to be addressed, substantiated and in this particular case investigated.

"I owe anyone that files a complaint against any city employee the respect of reviewing what is said," he wrote. "These particular allegations were serious enough to warrant what has been done and is continuing to be done, and the correct process was and is being followed."

Harris said May 8 he didn't feel there was any reason Thomas' complaint was filed with any malicious intent and she filed the complaint to possibly keep other similar instances from happening to additional employees.

The Record-Chronicle obtained Pierce's personnel record, which indicated she's had a clean employment record with multiple certifications for completing courses relating to her library duties up until now. According to remarks made at the May 8 meeting by city officials, there are no written performance evaluations conducted for city department heads.

An employment reference check on Pierce before she was hired to work in Krum indicated she worked well with library patrons but indicated there could be potential personality conflicts and library politics.

Tuesday's special meeting comes four days before the city's grand opening of the Krum Public Library. The library, funded with a $1.3 million bond package passed by voters in May 2013, officially opened its doors April 25. The grand opening is slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. at 815 E. McCart St. and will include a reception in the Community Meeting Room and tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Some residents who initially planned to boycott the event to stand in solidarity with Pierce, have since said they don't plan to attend. Pierce, who learned of a possible boycott, asked that residents not do so but attend the event in support of the library.

"The grand opening of the library needs to go on with or without me," she said. "I'm just a small part of the library. Boycotting it [isn't] any way to support the library."

Council member Rhonda Harrison said that beyond the information council members received on May 8, she has not had any other correspondence regarding Tuesday's meeting other than notice of it.

"I do hope that it gets resolved," she said.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876.