The city of Puyallup fired its library director this week, and community library boosters say they feel “blindsided” and “disappointed” by the decision.
The chairman of the library board said he was resigning in protest.
City Manager Kevin Yamamoto said the city terminated Tim Wadham’s employment, effective immediately, over issues related to his job performance.
Yamamoto added that the city couldn’t provide more details at this time.
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Wadham couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
Puyallup has a council-manager form of government, and Yamamoto is responsible for hiring and firing city employees. He told The News Tribune that he notified the council ahead of firing Wadham on Monday.
The decision shocked some city residents, who spoke about their disappointment at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Desta Taylor, a member of the community group Friends of the Puyallup Public Library, said she was addressing the council as a concerned citizen.
“(Tim Wadham) has been a breath of fresh air to our library,” she told the council. “I strongly urge you to rethink your decision.”
Library Board Chairman Troy Kehm-Goins also spoke at Tuesday’s meeting. He said he was “heartbroken” over the decision and frustrated with how the city handled it.
“We were never (told) as a board what was going on,” he said. “This blindsided all of us.”
Kehm-Goins, who was about to begin a new term as board chairman after more than four years in the post, said the council could consider his remarks Tuesday as a “formal resignation.” He said he isn’t going to serve alongside some city staff who undermined the library director’s leadership.
“I’m really disappointed,” Kehm-Goins said. “I wish there were answers.”
Wadham had worked as library director for three years. He previously was assistant director of the St. Louis County Library in Missouri.
Jim Kastama, president of the Puyallup Public Library Foundation, said Wednesday that the community is shocked over the firing. He said he plans to draft a letter to the City Council urging them to intervene and reinstate Wadham.
“This was really unexpected,” he said.
Kastama added that the library has big plans for the future, including a proposed makerspace for local creators and bestselling author events, thanks to Wadham’s vision.
“Tim has done a phenomenal job at bringing this library into the limelight nationally,” he said. “It’s all because of him.”
Wadham’s firing isn’t the only library controversy that’s come before the City Council in recent weeks. About a month ago, residents and library board members spoke out about safety concerns at the facility in Pioneer Park.
Many at that meeting referred to an assault on a librarian late last year and urged the city to explore improved security options.