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August 22. 2013 11:20PM

Epping trustees prepare for librarian's hearing

EPPING — Library trustees are seeking legal advice as they prepare for a public hearing on the appeal of a children's librarian who says she was fired because she missed too many days of work.

Tracie Wilkins is fighting her termination from the Harvey-Mitchell Memorial Library last month and has requested that her case be heard in public.

The hearing will be held on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Epping Town Hall.

In a recent interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, the 48-year-old Wilkins said she missed work mostly because of seasonal depression and anxiety issues. She claims she was absent fewer than 12 days in the seven months before she was fired from her part-time job.

Wilkins has seen an outpouring of support from parents and other community members since the firing. They held a rally last month and launched an online petition urging library trustees to reconsider their decision to let her go.

More than a dozen residents turned out for a library trustee meeting Tuesday. Some were hoping to have a chance to speak at the upcoming hearing, but library trustee Chairman Michael Vose said public comment would not be allowed.

Trustees said they have discussed the hearing and the process that must be followed under the law with the town's attorney, who also plans to attend.

Wilkins also attended Tuesday's meeting and urged the board to consider the views of community members.

"In that letter of the law I would also hope that there would be some compassion for the town and the community and the children that are represented by all of these parents," she said.

Resident Shana McTague, a supporter of Wilkins, asked the trustees to listen to the opinions of the residents and work together to resolve the issue in a way that's "mutually respectful."

"We are still a small town and there does have to be a balance between following the letter of the law but also respecting that your constituents are coming out pretty strongly about something that really matters to them," she said.

Trustee Charlie Goodspeed admitted that the ordeal has been difficult for trustees as well.

"Truly, this has touched my heart and all of us more than anything else I've had to deal with and we are truly aware of everyone's feelings," he said.jschreiber@newstote.com


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