Library Board Fires Director's Assistant

A Santa Paula library employee who filed a sexual harassment claim against its top administrator has been fired by the library's governing board.

The panel unanimously decided Thursday to fire Cynthia Chamberlain, administrative assistant to director Dan Robles. Robles also is chairman of the local elementary school board.

The action was not unexpected. Robles informed Chamberlain last month that she would be fired.

"There's just no way the two could work together," said Elizabeth Blanchard, board president. "We're backing the library director and we just feel we cannot believe her side of the story."

Robles also has been in trouble with the board, which cut his pay by 5% after he acknowledged earlier this year using library computers to download sexually explicit written material from the Internet. Chamberlain had brought Robles' admitted inappropriate computer use to the board's attention.

Library board members said she didn't do so until Robles gave Chamberlain a poor performance evaluation. Chamberlain's attorney describes her firing as "retaliation for her complaint."

The sexual harassment claim Chamberlain filed apparently stems in part from the written material she discovered in binders in a library storeroom a year ago.

Meanwhile, the district attorney's office has cleared Robles of any possible criminal wrongdoing connected with use of the library's computers, Blanchard said, adding that finding also played a role in the board's decision.

Janet Koehn, Chamberlain's attorney, contends the board is treating her client differently than Robles.

"If the board contends they had grounds to terminate Cynthia, it's pretty clear there was a different standard applied to her employment than was applied to the librarians'," Koehn said.

Koehn said her client may ask a Superior Court judge to review her termination, as public employees have the right to do.

In addition, the state is investigating her sexual harassment claim.

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