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Trustee Support Resources

Corrective Action

Corrective action is a counseling process that defines performance expectations. It is not a disciplinary action, but provides a way for the board and director to mutually address issues that may be hindering progress towards meeting library goals.

Corrective action is normally progressive, but circumstances may warrant stronger or lesser actions. When determining the appropriate level of corrective action to take, the board may wish to consider the following factors in consultation with their human resources specialist:

  • Has the board made the director aware of their concerns through:
    • Orientation sessions;
    • Recent evaluations;
    • Discussions with the director;
    • Providing training to the director.
  • How serious is the performance problem, the incident or concern?
    • Is this a misconduct issue that requires investigation and is more appropriately classified as a disciplinary action?
    • Are there any mitigating or aggravating circumstances?
  • Is this a first time concern or a repetition of the same or similar issues(s)?
    • If this is a repetition, how long ago was the first incident or issue discussed with the director?
    • What action was taken previously?
    • To what extent do you believe the employee has made an earnest effort to correct the situation?
  • What has previous library practice been in similar situations?
  • To what extent will a more severe level of corrective action cause irreparable damage to the board and director working relationship? If the action is likely to cause irreparable damage, the board may decide to work with their human relations specialist and/or legal counsel to discuss termination of the library director.

Developing a Corrective Action Plan

For a corrective action plan to be successful, it will need mutual participation by the board and the library director. A corrective action plan is similar to a contract in that the board and director establish an agreement to correct a specific problem or deficiency.

Who does what

Library Board Responsibilities:

  • Work with the human resources specialist to:
    • Define the problem(s)
    • Identify a method to correct the problem;
    • Determine the seriousness of the problem;
    • Confirm if this is a new problem or one that had been previously corrected;
    • Develop a plan that includes:
      • Measurable objectives stated as expected results;
      • Provision for specific training or other assistance as needed;
      • A timetable for effecting change;
      • A regular schedule for discussing progress.
  • Follow through with any actions promised on their part, monitoring progress and deciding on the next steps if the desired change does not occur.

Library Director Responsibilities:

  • Acknowledge ownership of the problem and take responsibility for correcting it;
  • Participate in developing the solution(s) and defining reasonable timelines to correct the problem and commit to the plan;
  • Ask for education or assistance if needed;
  • Meet agreed upon timelines and discuss progress with the library board.

Human Resource Staff Responsibilities:

  • Provide advice, consultation, examples, and resources to both the board and the director;
  • Assist by asking questions to elicit the nature of the problem, the degree of severity, and desired results;
  • Interview or investigate as appropriate;
  • Recommend when legal counsel should be consulted.

Contents of a Corrective Action Plan

  • Measurable objectives stated as expected results;
  • Provision for specific training or other assistance as needed;
  • Timetable for effecting change;
  • A regular schedule for discussing progress.

Steps for Corrective Action

  1. Have written documentation of the problem.

    This should include:

    • A description of the unacceptable performance or behavior.
    • The reason(s) why the performance or behavior is unacceptable and/or inappropriate.
    • The impact of unacceptable performance or behavior on operations, staff, the community, or other governmental personnel.
    • A description of the desired performance or behavior and how it can be achieved, as well as an offer of assistance by the board.
    • Specified job expectations needing improvement.
    • A signature line for the director, accompanied by a statement such as "I have seen this memorandum and it has been discussed with me." This wording is suggested so the signature is only an acknowledgement of receipt of the document.

    Note: A copy of the document should be given to the director.

  2. Conduct the corrective action interview:
    • Appoint a board member to take notes.
    • Clearly state the problem, using examples.
    • Focus on performance deficiency, not personal characteristics.
    • Be honest - share the blame if it is appropriate.
    • Ask the library director to present an explanation and pose questions or proposals for correcting the concern.
    • Work out a joint solution with timelines for accomplishing change and set a date for the next review.
    • Explain results if director doesn’t correct problem by stated time or if there is a recurrence.
    • Be positive that the desired performance can be achieved and that the board stands willing to help the director.
    • Verbally summarize discussion and the agreements made by the board and the director.
  3. Prepare a written summary of the interview.

    Note: Ask the human resources manager to maintain the file with the corrective action memo, action plan, and written summary.

  4. Monitor progress and document results:
    • The board should be sure to provide any promised assistance or education.
    • The board should meet regularly with the library director:
      • Maintain a record of those meetings.
      • Issue follow-up memos as needed.

Disciplinary Action—When corrective action fails

If the expectations of the corrective action plan are not met, the board may then proceed to disciplinary action that may result in a reprimand or termination of employment.

Letter of reprimand

A letter of reprimand is the first step in disciplinary action. A letter of reprimand is intended to provide a formal written admonishment concerning the library director’s problem performance. It acts as a final warning, following documented corrective actions, that failure to discontinue inappropriate conduct and/or improve inadequate performance will likely result in formal disciplinary action or termination of employment.

At a minimum a letter of reprimand should:

  • Clearly indicate it is a letter of reprimand.
  • Describe:
    • The specific performance or behavioral problem.
    • The incident or behavior upon which the action is based, including specific date(s) time, place, etc., as appropriate.
  • Include a history, if applicable, of previous corrective action counseling, training, and agreements made with the director.
  • Describe the expected performance or behavior - this may include specific action steps stated as a directive.
  • Provide a warning concerning the potential consequences of not correcting the performance problem.


Justifiable terminations should be spelled out in a policy handbook or personnel manual. Some of these reasons may include:

  • Incompetence or failure to respond to training.
  • Gross insubordination.
  • Responsibilities not being accomplished due to extensive absences.
  • Sexual harassment.
  • Verbal abuse.
  • Discrimination.
  • Physical violence.
  • Falsification of records.
  • Theft.
  • Drunkenness on the job.
Steps to take if terminating a director
  1. Discuss termination of employment in an executive session of the board:

    Hold an executive session to discuss potential termination of the director. Note: If the decision is to terminate the director, the actual termination must be authorized in a public meeting. (See RCW 42.30.110(1)(g))

  2. Review ramifications with human resources and legal counsel.

    The board should immediately consult library human resources staff or city specialists as well as legal counsel whenever considering dismissal. Sometimes the board and director may mutually agree that the situation is not beneficial. It is still necessary to consult with human resource experts and legal counsel to assure that any mutually agreed upon plan for departure is lawful and the board fully discusses and understands potential implications of any agreements. Be sure to:

    • Confirm that you are not violating any local, state or federal laws that protect specific classes of individuals from discriminatory hiring or firing based on their classification such as race, sex, color, disability, religion, age, national origin, ancestry, or marital status.
    • Review any employment agreements made in your offer to the library director or in a subsequent employment contract. Check to make sure there were no verbal contracts that would reasonably alter the employment agreement. Implied contracts or practices in termination also need to be examined, especially if the personnel handbook sets out a standard disciplinary pattern and the board has not followed the usual pattern.
    • Confirm that your rationale for terminating employment is objective, documented, and with cause. For example, citing a “personality problem” without objective documentation of a detrimental effect or without evidence of corrective action effort is unlikely to assist the board if the library is sued for unfair dismissal.
    • Review previous evaluations to substantiate that the board has documented the circumstances leading to dismissal.
    • Review with counsel the implications of potential release and settlement agreements such as:
      • Agreeing to allow the employee to resign instead of being terminated.
      • Agreeing to provide a reference for the employee, at least at the level of acknowledging that they occupied the library director position.
      • Agreeing to severance pay.
      • Agreeing to continue insurance beyond standard expectations.
      • Agreeing to assist person with job search, training, or other options.
    • Determine with human resource staff and counsel the need for a factual investigation or other course of action if the reason for dismissal is gross misconduct, refusal to do work that was directed by the board and would be reasonably expected, wrongful use or taking of property, or a felony conviction.
  3. Loudermill Hearing.

    Based on the 1985 U. S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill (470 U.S. 532), the director is entitled to a final hearing to contest a termination decision. A letter from the board will advise that dismissal is being considered and give the library director an opportunity to review the charges, examine the board’s evidence, and indicate why dismissal is not appropriate. The board of trustees will utilize the Loudermill hearing to determine if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the charges are, or are not true, and determine whether they continue to support the proposed dismissal action. Additional information about the Loudermill Hearing may be found in:

  4. Final disciplinary letter.

    Before dismissing the director, a final disciplinary letter must be delivered. This formal letter delineates:

    • Performance issues/behavioral problems.
    • Negative impacts on the library caused by those issues or behaviors.
    • The agreed upon expectations that have not been met.
    • Steps that have been taken to correct the problem(s) such as counseling, corrective action agreements, and training.

    The letter concludes with a statement that the board has adopted the motion to dismiss the director.

  5. Letter of termination.

    The board then issues the letter of termination, although the human resources specialist or the library attorney will most likely write the text of the letter. The letter documents any release and settlement agreements and includes:

    • Reasons for dismissal;
    • Effective date of termination.
  6. The library director is terminated at a meeting of the board open to the public.