Great Neck Library board votes to remove trustee Douglas Hwee

Janelle Clausen
Trustee Douglas Hwee speaks at a previous Great Neck Library board meeting. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Great Neck Library trustees voted to remove Trustee Douglas Hwee from the board on Tuesday night, following a private hearing earlier that evening.

Legal counsel Peter Fishbein and the board cited “misconduct” and “neglect of duty” but did not give details. Trustee Michael Fuller filed the motion to remove Hwee. Ultimately, with Hwee abstaining, the five other board members present approved his removal. Rebecca Miller was absent.

“The library board has no comment with regard to that specific action at this time,” Fishbein said.

Hwee said in an interview on Wednesday that he could not yet comment on the specifics of the case.

Fishbein said that the board had authority to remove a trustee under its by-laws, but would not go further on explaining the reasons.

Hwee, who ran independently, was elected Oct. 31 with 275 votes, unseating Trustee Varda Solomon, a selection of the Nominating Committee. Hwee said in a recent interview that he had run on a campaign to try and improve library transparency.

“I’m glad to help the community open its eyes on the process,” Hwee said in the interview Wednesday, “and I hope the process will improve.”

The Nominating Committee, which is responsible for recommending trustees, will now take up the issue of who should fill Hwee’s spot. It will present two candidates for the board to vote on.

Whoever is approved would likely serve until the next election in 2018.

The Great Neck Library Board of Trustees also announced that three members of the public joined the Director Search Committee, which includes board members, staff members and administrators.

This marks a major step toward formally beginning to search for a permanent library director. Previously, library representatives have said they wanted to be sure they had public input.

The three members are Marianna Wohlgemuth, Rebecca Gilliar and Martin Adickman.

Board members voted to fire Kathy Giotsas, who had served as library director since Aug. 3, 2015, from her position at a special meeting on May 1. They never gave a reason for her termination.

Tracy Geiser, who was appointed as assistant library director in May 2016, has served as the interim director since Giotsas’ firing. She will remain in that position until a permanent director can be appointed.

Previous directors, both interim and not in the last five years, include Jane Marino, who resigned after a $20.8 million bond referendum failed, Laura Weir and Chris Johnson. None of them, however, were terminated.

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