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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | SANTA PAULA

Judge Reinstates Job of Library Worker

July 11, 1998|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT

A woman fired last year from her job at the Santa Paula library has been told she can return to work and also receive more than $10,000 in back pay and benefits, a Ventura County Superior Court judge ruled Friday.

Cynthia Chamberlain was reinstated during a hearing in which Judge John H. Hunter said he could not uphold her firing because library officials failed to provide the court with a record of her termination hearing, attorneys said.

Attorneys for the library had not decided Friday afternoon whether to appeal Hunter's decision.

Chamberlain was fired by the Blanchard Community Library's governing board last October after she complained that her boss was using library computers to download sexually explicit material from the Internet. The boss was reprimanded over the incident but remains the library's director.

The governing board claimed the firing was a result of several poor performance evaluations.

Chamberlain's attorney argued in court that her client had exhausted the library board's grievance process and was entitled to a judge's review of written records of the firing.

"She followed the grievance procedure to the letter and to the end," said Janet M. Koehn, Chamberlain's attorney. "The board erred by keeping no records."

Library officials have maintained that Chamberlain had one meeting with the governing board before her firing but that she failed to request a full administrative hearing after she was terminated, as they claim is policy, said Ed Reitkopp, the library's attorney.

Koehn said Chamberlain plans to go to work Monday morning. Reitkopp said he may request a stay of the judge's order. He said if she returns, Chamberlain would likely be placed immediately on administrative leave.

"I think Judge Hunter was mistaken as to what the law is in this area," Reitkopp said.

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