Ex-library assistant refutes county's allegations
Reference: Biesterfeld has letter of recommendation from library’s Judi Hill.
A Tulare County librarian assistant, who is at the center of story that has gained national attention, flatly refuted a list of reasons for her dismissal that was recently released by county officials.
“They’re all made up,” said Brenda Biesterfeld of Woodlake.
Biesterfeld maintains she was fired because she reported to Lindsay police that she observed a library patron allegedly viewing child pornography on a library computer.
She contends that she took the action despite being instructed not to by her supervisor, Judi Hill.
“Judi told me this is a library matter,” Biesterfeld said. “She told me to just slip him a note saying that this is his first warning. And if he’s caught again he’ll be banned from the library.”
But attorney Michael Woods, who is representing the county in the matter, said Biesterfeld was fired because of negligent performance, and her termination did not stem from the alleged child pornography incident.
“It was recognized by her supervisor in mid-February that she was not performing her job in an adequate manner and was not deserving of permanent employment, meaning that she would be released at the end of her probation,” Woods said.
Biesterfeld was fired March 6.
The reasons for her dismissal, as documented by Woods, include:
-- Failure to accurately and correctly complete time sheets as instructed.
-- Failure to follow established protocols to ensure library materials were tracked properly, both within the Lindsay Library and through the San Joaquin Valley cooperative library system.
-- Failure to process and accurately account for the library’s daily cash as instructed.
Biesterfeld called the reasons laughable. She said the only time she failed to finish processing the library’s daily cash was on the day she was fired.
“I would normally count the money and write the amount on a piece of scratch paper, then list it on the forms,” she said. “But on that day I didn’t have a chance to list it on the forms because I was dismissed after being there for only 45 minutes.”
Biesterfeld said she counted the money that day, and the total on the scratch paper was accurate.
“It’s just another made-up thing,” she said.
Biesterfeld also denied that she failed to properly track library materials. She pointed out that she was not a typical probationary employee, having previously worked for the county library system for about seven years, before quitting to become a stay-at-home mom.
“I know how to track and shelve books,” she said.
Biesterfeld also refuted the charge that she failed to accurately complete her time sheet. She said during her training period, she was instructed to fill out time sheets four days in advance so they could be picked up by a courier service on Tuesday of each week.
“I would put it in the courier bag on Monday evening to be picked up on Tuesday,” she said. “The reason is it had to be in Visalia by noon on Thursday for us to get paid.”
Woods, however, said Biesterfeld’s method of filling out her time sheet was a direct violation of library policy. Additionally, Biesterfeld over-reported the number of hours she worked, Woods said.
“On more than one occasion she reported 40 hours when she didn’t work 40 hours,” Woods said. “If it hadn’t been caught by her supervisor, the county would have paid her for work that she didn’t do.”
Woods said Biesterfeld was informed she was not completing her time sheets properly but continued to repeat the same mistake.
Biesterfeld was also negligent when it came to performing library tasks such as properly filing books, Woods said.
“She didn’t seem to appreciate the importance of doing these tasks,” Woods said. “But if books aren’t on the shelf or in the right place, then patrons don’t have access to the books.”
Woods ssaid it might be seen by some as a trivial reason for firing someone, but proper filing of books is critical to the effective operation of a library.
In defense of Hill’s instruction to Biesterfeld to not report the alleged child pornography incident to police, Woods said Biesterfeld was inaccurate in her description of the incident.
“When she first reported it to her supervisor, she characterized it as pornography, not child pornography,” Woods said.
Biesterfeld maintains she was accurate in her description.
“I remember I was really upset because I have two boys myself,” she said. “I definitely told Judi the man was looking at child pornography.”
Biesterfeld said the portrayal of her as negligent by library officials is in sharp contrast to a letter of recommendation written by Hill.
The letter was written in August 2004 after Biesterfeld told Hill she was looking to re-enter the job market.
In the letter, Hill says she has known Biesterfeld in both a professional and personal manner. Hill describes her as “businesslike, professional, cheerful, trustworthy and dependable.”
“Brenda was employed with the Tulare County Library as a Library Assistant; during this time she had applied herself intelligently and conscientiously to her duties.,” Hill says in the letter.
The letter concludes: “Brenda was highly regarded by our customers and our staff. If hired, you would be pleased with her well developed skills and rapid learning abilities.”
Biesterfeld’s attorney, Steve Crampton, said he is discussing terms of mediation. If that fails, Crampton said he plans to file a lawsuit.
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