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Pioneerland Library System ends director’s contract

WILLMAR — Pioneerland Library System board members unanimously approved a motion not to renegotiate the system’s contract with executive director Mark Ranum following a closed meeting held at the library headquarters in Willmar Thursday evening.

They agreed to appoint an ad hoc committee to begin the search for a new director.

Board members had met in a similar, closed meeting for nearly two hours on Dec. 8 to discuss what were termed “allegations’’ against a staff member. After the board reconvened in an open session Dec. 8, Ranum told the board he was terminating his contract but was interested in continuing with Pioneerland Library System and renegotiating a new contract.

The contract allows either party to terminate with a 30-day notice.

Pioneerland Library System consists of 32 libraries in nine counties in west central Minnesota. Ranum has served as director of Pioneerland Library System since Aug. 1, 2011. The director received an annual compensation of $68,898.

Thursday’s action came after board members reconvened after meeting in a closed session for about an hour and 15 minutes. They conducted normal business before hearing the director give a report on library accomplishments.

After the report, board member Cheryl Heimerl, Madison, made a motion seconded by Mark Larson, of Glencoe, not to renegotiate the contract that Ranum had terminated. A voice vote for the motion was met with ayes and no dissenting votes.

“I want to extend my personal thanks,’’ said Board Chairman Brent Olson, of Ortonville, to Ranum immediately after the vote.

“You have moved us a long ways down the road to a first-class library system, and I greatly appreciate it,’’ Olson said.

Ranum had been serving as director of both the Plum Creek system in southwestern Minnesota and the Pioneerland Library System. Plum Creek Library board members terminated their contract with Ranum on Oct. 31 when auditors reported he had used the system’s credit card for unauthorized personal purchases totaling $21,697.84 during a 14-month period.

The credit card usage included $6,200 in transactions in June and July of 2014 at Jackpot Junction Casino in Morton. Ranum repaid all of the funds to the system. The Nobles County Attorney’s office is currently investigating the matter.

Following last night’s meeting, Pioneerland Library System board chairman Olson declined to comment on what was discussed during the closed sessions held here.

“The action is what it is,’’ he said, adding that he was happy that board members were able to hear the report on the library system’s progress during Ranum’s tenure.

Laurie Ortega, director of library operations, will serve as interim director.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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