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some text Library director Corinne Hill attends a Chattanooga Public Library board meeting Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, in Chattanooga.

IF YOU GO

• What: The Chattanooga Public Library's monthly board meeting

• When: Noon today

• Where: Third floor of the downtown library

In response to a critical city audit where top Chattanooga Public Library officials were found to have abused travel reimbursement and leave time, the library's governing board will vote today on whether to adopt the city's personnel policies.

But current library employees will be exempt from following the city policies related to leave time -- one of the problems that City Auditor Stan Sewell identified in his report released in late August.

Only new employees will be required to follow the city's policies related to vacation or sick time.

Library board Chairman Jim Kennedy said he didn't feel comfortable talking about the proposed changes because he said he wasn't on the subcommittee that discussed the proposals last week.

Library Director Corinne Hill, who is on the subcommittee, didn't return calls seeking comment. Hill told the board in September that she already had started following the city's strict eight-pages of policies for travel reimbursements and the library had stopped using a "little black book" to document vacation requests.

But a growing number of employees are asking the board of directors to hold off on voting on any policy changes today until employees have had time to understand the effects of changes.

The local workers union is questioning why library officials want two separate leave policies that will treat employees differently and are also questioning why the library wants to exclude the city's rules on purchasing and contractor rules, the code of ethics and whistle-blower protections from its policies.

The Public Service Workers Union Local 205 has asked the library to hold off on voting on these changes. At today's noon board meeting a petition will be presented that requests more time to discuss the changes. As of Monday afternoon, union officials said 29 employees had signed the petition.

"We are concerned that fast-tracking large policy changes would prevent a full discussion of the ramifications of such changes," the letter to the library states. "The union calls for the board to vote against adopting these policies without meeting and conferring with the union."

The proposal calls for any current employees to be grandfathered into the library's current system that gives employees four weeks of vacation, 12 days of sick time and nine paid holidays each year.

Currently, city employees receive seven weeks of personal time, which includes holidays, vacation and sick time. There are several differences where the city's plan could be better for employees, including that city employees can sell back unused personal leave, but the library only pays a maximum of $300 for leave time.

The policy changes are in response to Sewell's investigation that found Hill and her top employees Assistant Director Nate Hill and Systems Administrator Meg Backus had taken weeks of unreported vacation time and found excessive reimbursements of nearly $3,000.

Sewell's report also found Nate Hill and Backus took multiple paid speaking and consultant jobs while on library time and both were reported to the state comptroller's office for suspected fraud. Backus resigned and Nate Hill was suspended for three days.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick Smith at jsmith@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

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