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There was an enthusiastic turnout for the opening of the new Frazier Park Branch Library on October 22, 2011. Diane Duquette had worked for 16 years to fund and implement the planning and building for the library. Duquette came to a settlement with the Board of Supervisors over her resignation on January 17. She built or enlarged 22 libraries for all sections of Kern County during her 24 years as director of libraries.
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Duquette after dumpster-diving for new library books in 2010. [photo by Patric Hedlund, The Mountain Enterprise]
By Patric Hedlund
The resignation of the embattled director of Kern County’s library system was accepted by the Kern County Board of Supervisors in executive session on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
Pine Mountain community resident Diane Duquette fought for 15 years to bring the Frazier Park Branch Library into reality to serve the Mountain Communities. The project was funded largely with state grants. County funding covered the balance of the project.
She was successful, but almost immediately after the new library’s grand opening on October 22, 2011 Duquette came under attack by the Bakersfield Californian and some county supervisors, first for opening the library in Frazier Park instead of the now more populous Tehachapi area (the Bakersfield Californian owns the Tehachapi newspaper), and then for alleged misuse of her county vehicle and leave time.
During her 24 years in the position, Duquette built or explanded 22 libraries and leaseholdings throughout the county, developing a full network of facilites and services for the growing population of Kern County.
Allen Krauter of the Kern County Administrative Office issued a press release saying that “Ms. Duquette will reimburse the County more than $8,950 through payroll and vacation deductions for the cost of her personal use of a county-issued cell phone and a county-owned vehicle, as well as disputed travel claims and vacation days. Ms. Duquette will be on leave using previously earned accrued leave time until March 23, 2012.”
A “Settlement and Release of Claims” agreement between the county and Duquette states that there was no intentional wrongdoing by either party.
Barry Bennett, Duquette’s attorney for negotiations with the county, said Duquette wanted to fight the allegations but that winning would be a “pyrrhic victory,” in which the civil service hearings could stretch over a year and a half and the costs would be greater than the gains.
The settlement says that Duquette will submit “an irrevocable letter of resignation” on March 23, 2012 and apply for retirement.” She agreed that 20 days of vacation leave may be deducted from her “leave bank” to resolve a dispute with Kern County over certain days in 2009, 2010 and 2011; $818.27 will be deducted from her final pay warrant for use of the county cell phone, vehicle and travel reimbursement.
The Board appointed Sherry Gomez as Interim Director of Libraries, effective immediately.
Gomez has served as deputy director of libraries since 2006, beginning in 1975 in Delano as a junior librarian. She worked as children’s librarian.
Gomez became the Children’s Librarian at the newly opened Beale Memorial Library in 1988. She developed the Grandparents and Books program; the Storytelling Festival that brought storytellers from across the nation; and a partnership with the Arvin School District to encourage children and families to use the library.
This is part of the January 20, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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