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E.C. School Board attempts to give Fambrough and Branch the boot

Rhonda Crowder | , Felicia Haney | , Kevin Chill Heard | 1/15/2014, 9:30 a.m. | Updated on 1/15/2014, 11:10 p.m.
William Fambrough

East Cleveland Library Trustee leadership under fire!

The first elephant in the room this past Monday at the East Cleveland basement meeting room, was the empty seat that once belonged to dismissed East Cleveland Library Director Sheba Marcus-Bey. And the other… It came in the form of two armed police officers standing on each side of the head table where library trustee president William Fambrough and fellow trustee Devin Branch were “expecting chaos.”

With an anxious crowd of community members and interested onlookers, the crowd was ultimately dispersed after being issued a document that stated, “Per Charles E. Bibb, Sr, and William Fambrough – Due to the following email (ruling) from Brian Gutoski, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, the Annual Organizational Meeting of the East Cleveland Public Library has been postponed until Monday, January 20, 2014 (Martin Luther King’s Birthday) at 7:00 p.m.”

The much-anticipated “chaos” at the East Cleveland board of trustees’ Monday evening meeting turned out to be more fizzle than fireworks. The “non-meeting” only prolonged the inevitable showdown between library trustees – William Fambrough and Devin Branch – and the school board that appointed them. That very same school board has, as of Jan 7, drafted a resolution to remove Fambrough and Branch from their trustee positions. The two separate resolutions, signed by East Cleveland City School District Board President Una Keenon, levied various grounds of “misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance in the performance of duties.”

In an interview with Call and Post staff writers both Fambrough and Branch proclaimed that the school board has repeatedly overstepped its boundaries. They also added that Keenon, and the school board, has no authority to dismiss them citing Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 03.7 – 03.10. According to Fambrough and Branch, the removal of library board trustees involves a hearing before the court accompanied by a court order. As of now, the school board has not undergone such a process.

“The school board only has authority to appoint, not remove,” said Branch. Fambrough added, “The school board has no oversight over library affairs whatsoever.”

The Monday meeting was intended to serve as the trustees’ annual reorganization meeting. It was also expected to be a testing ground for any challenges Fambrough and Branch may have presented in the termination of their trustee statuses.

Much of the issue about a disconnect between the East Cleveland Board of Trustees and the East Cleveland School Board surfaced following the contentious dismissal of Marcus-Bey. With the vote to oust Marcus-Bey – who had only been on the job just more than six months – the trustee board was split three votes to four, with the majority going with dismissal.

The gender demographics of the vote to dismiss the female executive director also raised eyebrows with the four men on the trustee board – Fambrough, Branch, Charles Bibb and Edward Parker – opting to let Marcus-Bey go. The remaining three members, all women, Terra Turner, Mary Rice and Leontine Synor, voted to keep Marcus-Bey.

As to the trustees’ dismissal of Marcus-Bey as Library Director, Branch responded, “She was insubordinate and had a negative attitude within the first month that she got there.” Branch did note that personally he, along with a unanimous decision by the library board at the time of hire, did feel that Marcus-Bey was qualified for the position. And, minus the meddling of the school board, the issues at hand could have been better resolved.

The resolution issued by Keenon and the East Cleveland School Board says that Branch had been unprofessional and discourteous to members of the community during meetings and other public events for, or related to, the library. To those claims Branch replied, “[Keenon and the school board] use innuendo and one-sided arguments to justify firing trustees.” In addition he maintains that the trustees are in no way accountable to the school board.

When faced with the fact that it was the school board that appointed them, Branch replied “Appointment authority does not constitute removal authority.”

The Call and Post will update the East Cleveland Library situation as it develops.

Follow these writers on Twitter: Kevin Chill Heard @Houseofchill Rhonda Crowder @Rhonda_Crowder Felicia C. Haney @Beechstreet