York County Library board discusses allegations against director

Colleen Pappas, director of the York County Library for nine years, has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into wide-ranging allegations about her management.
Colleen Pappas, director of the York County Library for nine years, has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into wide-ranging allegations about her management. Herald file art

Nearly two weeks after placing the York County Library director on leave, the library board met in closed session for more than an hour Wednesday to discuss the allegations against her.

Colleen Pappas, the library’s director for nine years, was placed on administrative leave after an Aug. 11 library trustees meeting, pending an investigation into allegations about her management.

The allegations, which included threatening employees, illegal hiring practices, discrimination, a “hostile work environment” and other charges, were listed in a two-page anonymous email sent Aug. 7 to library trustees, local and state officials, The Herald and others. The email said it was being sent by a library employee.

Pappas did not attend Wednesday’s meeting and could not be reached for comment.

The board, which met in a closed session to discuss “personnel and legal matters” as permitted under state law, took no action regarding Pappas in a public session after the closed meeting.

Four library employees attended Wednesday’s meeting and all declined to comment for The Herald on the investigation.

Board chairwoman Barbara Boulware said after the meeting the investigation is continuing and she did not have any new information to announce.

Jason Hyatt, interim director of the county library system, told board members he would gather cost estimates for an audit of library finances, which he said the county treasurer recommended.

Hyatt said the library board could consider estimated audit costs at its next meeting, at 5 p.m. Sept. 8 at the library system’s Lake Wylie branch.

The anonymous email listed 14 allegations against Pappas, including that she created jobs for her friends; refused to give employees raises in a timely manner and threatened disciplinary action against those who inquired about raises; employed an unqualified bookkeeper who made “numerous errors related to benefits and retirement programs”; and that she chose rare or out-of-print items from the library collection and made them available for her alone to purchase at Friends of the Library book sales.

Other allegations included that Pappas hired staff members to serve as library security without a required license; that children of a deputy director were hired without an application or interview; that a “serious workplace accident” at the Rock Hill branch involved a staff member and one of the deputy director’s sons; that there was no racial diversity among county librarians; and that Pappas developed policies that disenfranchised minorities.

One person who declined to give her name to The Herald showed up to speak to the library board, but the board did not offer a chance for public input.

Board member Suzanne Thompson asked if the board should develop a policy that would allow the public to address board members.

Board member Nik Bramblett suggested the board form a committee that would consider policies and said, “It makes good sense for that to be included.”

Boulware said the board should offer a way for the public to reach members. The names of board members are listed on the library website, but there are no phone numbers or email addresses provided.

Hyatt said he would look into setting up a group email address for library board members that could be posted on the site for the public to use.

Hyatt said he would take steps to make sure minutes of the library board meetings are posted on the website. “I am not sure why that has not happened in the past, but that will be rectified ASAP,” he told the board.

Library board members said Pappas has been placed on a 30-day administrative leave while the allegations are being investigated. They have declined to say whether that leave is paid or unpaid.

Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077