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Library, Bogard continue fight

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State denies unemployment, but recording remains key

By Todd Martin

Answers to two of the key questions at the center of the lawsuit former children’s librarian Sherry Bogard filed against the Shelby County Public Library may have become clearer this week.

Did Bogard walk off the job or was she fired by library Director Pam Federspiel during a disagreement in June? And was there a physical altercation between the two?

Bogard and the library parted ways after a heated argument between Federspiel and her during an event on June 16, and Bogard, the state’s 2011 Children’s Librarian of the Year, last month filed a wrongful-termination suit against Federspiel, her longtime boss, and the library’s board of directors, seeking to be rehired under several conditions and to receive back compensation.

At least one of those questions may have been answered on Sept. 6, when T. Light, a Kentucky Unemployment Insurance appeals referee II, ruled in favor of the library and denied Bogard unemployment benefits and required her to repay the $3,773 she already had received. The library had appealed those benefits, prompting the ruling.

The Sentinel-Newsobtained a copy of the referee’s opinion, which was mailed to Bogard on Sept. 11, and it does not mention the physical altercation Bogard said took place on that Saturday when she and Federspiel quarreled about her role, setting off the events that led to her disputed departure.

Bogard’s attorney, Amanda Walker of the Louisville-based Zoppoth Law Firm, said that decision also would be appealed, although the required document has not been filed. The deadline for appeal, which will be heard by the Unemployment Insurance Commission, is Wednesday. Any appeal after that would be heard in Shelby County Circuit Court.

According to the letter, Light’s decision took into account a recording made by Bogard during that final argument between her and Federspiel, but her letter dismissed that audio as being a true indication that Bogard had not quit her job.

The Sentinel-Newsalso this week, during an interview with Walker in her office, listened to at least a portion of the recording made by Bogard, and Federspiel can be heard telling Bogard that she should leave and take the rest of the day off, Bogard replies: “You can call me if you want me to be the head of your children’s [department].”

Federspiel asks her if that’s a resignation.

“No, I’m not quitting; you dismissed me,” Bogard replies. “But you need to call me if you want me to be the head of your children’s [department]. It’s not my decision; it’s yours.”

In the reasons for the decision Light writes that if a worker intentionally does or doesn’t do something that will result in termination, the worker, in essence, quits.

“The claimant’s behavior sufficiently manifested that intention when she told Ms. Federspiel that she could contact the claimant when she wanted the claimant to be head of the children. Though Ms. Federspiel had initially told the claimant to go home for the rest of the day, she also told the claimant if she left it would be considered as quitting and that if the claimant walked out the door, not to come back.”

As for the recording, Light said only a portion was submitted, and she indicated that it could have been altered.

In the recording heard by The Sentinel-News, the part with Federspiel stating that if Bogard left she should not to come back, was not discernable. Walker denied the paper’s request for a copy of the recording.

“That portion of the recording was all that was played for the unemployment officers and all that was turned over the defense,” Walker said. “It was the only portion played because the rest of the recording had nothing to do with the question of her quitting or being terminated.”

Walker also stated that the unemployment officials were made aware of the fact that only a portion was going to be played.

“They were made aware that it was only a partial recording several weeks before the hearing, and the full recording was never requested,” she said.

Gregg Neal, the Shelbyville attorney representing Federspiel and the library, said that the portion of the recording played in the hearing did not include the comment from Federspiel saying that if Bogard left it would be taken as a resignation.

“We do have a partial copy of the recording, but that is not on there,” he said. “And it wasn’t played as part of the hearing. They have refused to give us the entire tape.”

And Neal said he believes the hearing to be pivotal.

“I think the decision speaks for itself,” Neal said. “The referee heard the evidence, and made the proper decision.”

Walker said this decision does not affect Bogard’s case going forward.