Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Let the crusades begin!

One of the many problems with our society is that people get angry over pretty much nothing all the time.  But I must say that I get some sort of strange pleasure out of it when people get pissed off for the right reasons. 

We have a very small public library in Lindsay, which is actually a branch of the Tulare County Library.  A few weeks ago, the librarian (who is a single mother of two who worked for the county library system for four years before her boys were born) spotted a patron looking at child pornography on one of the library computers.  She called her supervisor at the county who told her to issue a written warning asking him to leave.  She agreed to do so and said, "I need to call the police, right?"  The supervisor told her no, she just needed to tell him to leave.  As an employee of the public and a mother, that didn't sound right to her.  She told her supervisor so, and was given a lecture about not having enough loyalty to the county.  She asked Lindsay Police Captain Rich Wilkinson if her supervisor was correct.  He told her that viewing child pornography violated federal law and that she should call them (the police) the next time this patron came in.  Knowing full well that it may jeopardize her job, she did just that.  The police came in with a team and surrounded the man, who was once again viewing child pornography.  A subsequent arrest and search of his home has led to seven felony indictments, all related to child pornography.

Case closed, this woman's a hero, right?  As a mother of two small children living in Lindsay, I'd damn well say so.  A day and half later, she was fired.  She was on a six month probationary period with the county, standard for new employees.  A week short of the end of that probationary period, she was let go.  This has caused quite the uproar in our little community.   Regular library patrons have said that every time they visited the library, the librarian was professional, friendly and helpful.  Our city manager, mayor and city council drafted a letter to the county just days after this incident stating that this sequence of events was unacceptable and indefensible.  County elections are not far off, and there are some County Supervisors who are likely to fall on their butts awfully hard.

Yesterday, County Supervisors held a closed door meeting in which they concluded that there were "sound business reasons" for not continuing the librarian's employment.  They said that they could not disclose what those were unless the librarian signed a waiver so that her personnel information could be made public.  She promptly did so, stating that she had nothing to fear from the record being publicized because she had nothing to hide.  The employee evaluation that was released scored her at a 5--average rating for most competent, regular employees with the county.  This makes it appear that they were happy with her performance until now.  Ok, folks, its been made public.  Now you have no confidentiality agreements to hide behind, so explain yourselves.

This, my friends, is bureaucracy at its destructive finest.  Bureaucrats don't write policies to serve people, they hire people to serve policies and then penalize people who try to go above and beyond.  She stuck her neck out to do the right thing because her sense of morality was more important than her supervisor's control over her job future.  And because of that, she's gotta find a new job.  Utterly reprehensible. 

I believe in the concept of righteous anger, but as I've told many of you before, I often have trouble with it as an emotional reality.  But this is one case where I think people are right to be pissed off.  Anger is only righteous when it is directed at immoral actions or people and drives you toward being productive in a positive way.  Well, I'll tell ya, there are a whole lot of people in Lindsay and in Tulare County who are plenty mad right now, and a few heads are gonna roll.  The librarian intends to sue--perhaps that will get the county library's attention and get them to change policy that isn't even in step with federal law, let alone good common sense.  And she will have a whole community 100% behind her, helping her fight the good fight any way that we can.

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