The Altadena Library District agreed to a $550,000 settlement with former Library District Director Mindy Kittay, who repeatedly clashed with members of the library’s board of trustees.
Kittay joined the library district in 2014 and began working to improve services and the library’s two facilities. Two years later, however, she came under fire from the board after she began publicly calling out its five members for violating the state’s open meeting law, the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Among other things, the Brown Act prohibits a board majority from having meetings or discussions outside of properly noticed agendized meetings in which the public can comment.
According Dale Gronemeier, Kittay’s attorney, the board violated the Brown Act 96 times beginning on May 30, 2017 by conducting illegal meetings via email and failing to vote in public. The board, Gronemeier alleged, also attempted to restrict the public’s right to speak during board meetings.
In an Oct. 26, 2017 email, trustees discussed the possibility of limiting public comments to Altadena residents after the public began complaining about the way the library’s business was being conducted.
After the conflict escalated the following May, Kittay’s doctor sent her home due to stress, but the board refused to allow her to return to work.
The conflict also led to a drastic change on the board.
Board member John McDonald resigned last March after Gronemeier and attorney Skip Hickambottom publicly presented email evidence of Brown Act violations. Armando Zambrano did not seek reelection in November, and Ira Bershatsky was defeated in the November election by Katie Clark.
The district’s insurance services will pay $375,000 of the settlement. The additional $175,000 will be paid by the district in a series of installments.
Kittay has agreed to release the library of all known and unknown claims, including a lawsuit she filed, alleging dozens of Brown Act violations.
A copy of the settlement is available for inspection at the library.
“My attorneys and I repeatedly made it clear that I wanted to continue as the Altadena library director rather than being paid a handsome sum to leave,” Kittay said in a prepared statement. “Throughout this ordeal, I was never informed of the reasons the library board refused to allow me to return to work. There was never any substantiation of misconduct or fault by me. It is wrong that I am being penalized for objecting to repeated illegality.”