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Bronxville Residents Speak About Library Lawsuit

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – Residents waited two hours for an opportunity to address the Bronxville Library Board about the lawsuit between Bronxville Library Director Laura Eckley and the Village of Bronxville.

The Wednesday night meeting was the first time the board met since a lawsuit was filed in mid-December by Eckley after, according to her suit, the village board first passed a resolution to raise her salary in October, then rescinded the raise without cause or notice a month later.

While most members of the library board refused to speak about the lawsuit, former board president Sean Abbott, who has been on the board since 2008 – longer than any of the other seven board members – said he was "terribly and personally embarrassed by the behavior of his colleagues."

"I support the library and this whole incident is inexplicable," Abbott said. "I don't understand how it happened and why it happened, and I was in the room. I am hoping I can find out and resolve the situation quickly."

Bronxville resident Maggie Bop, a member of the Friends of the Bronxville Library, said she was "nothing but impressed with Laura Eckley." Her words, she insisted, were of her own personal belief, not on behalf of the Friends group, which raises money to support library activities and programs.

Bop said she has been stopped on the street by fellow residents who are upset about the controversy at the Bronxville Library.

"Everyone has egg on their face about this," Bop told the board.

But Bop said she is also worried about how the controversy will impact the reputation and the continued support of the library by generous benefactors.

"Donations have doubled in the last few years," said Bop, who has been a member of the Friends group for four years and has served as its treasurer for the last two. "That has allowed us to support many events and programs."

The library board is an eight-member unpaid board, each of whom are appointed by the Bronxville Village for three-year terms. The board sets policy and disburses the budget within the library.  As director, Eckley oversees 31 employees and approximately 750 programs and events.

Richard O'Connell is a longtime Bronxville resident who urged the board to use common sense when dealing with the situation to save money and the library’s reputation.

“I urge the library board to set down and think about the effect this is having and settle things expeditiously," O’Connell said.

Resident Ed Barr said he usually does not get involved in town business unless it is really extraordinary.

"I have never seen a board vote and agree on giving a salary increase and then rescinding that increase," Barr said. "This is not the way to run an organization, a village or a library."

When residents wanted to know why the board made the decision to take away Eckley's raise, Abbott and other board members said the lawyers representing the village advised them not to speak about the matter.

"Now we have to shut up because we are paying lawyers instead of librarians," said Abbott.

Eckley declined comment but earlier in the week, her attorney, Anthony Pirotti, called the actions of the board "ridiculous and disgraceful."

"Laura Eckley did not seek a raise from the village," Pirotti said. "She was rewarded a raise by the board because of the very good job she does. Then, without any change in her performance or any other circumstances that would merit such a change, the board took the raise away."

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