ST. HELENA — Library Director Jennifer Baker was fired late Monday, effective immediately, as the city considers deep budget cuts to balance its General Fund.
City Manager Jennifer Phillips confirmed Tuesday morning that Baker’s employment contract had been terminated. She also confirmed that former American Canyon City Clerk Rebekah Barr has been hired as the part-time manager to oversee the library.
The news came hours before the City Council was to meet to consider a sweeping $828,000 package of cuts that including laying off the police chief.
An initial proposal had called for Baker to be laid off at the beginning of July and replaced with a part-time manager, saving the city about $100,000. But last week, the St. Helena Public Library Board of Trustees defended Baker and endorsed key elements of a different package of cuts, proposed by Baker herself, that would have preserved her job by taking more money out of the library’s Wood Trust.
Several library boardmembers said Baker’s firing late Monday afternoon came as a surprise to the board, which had just held a special meeting earlier in the day.
On Tuesday, Baker thanked the St. Helena community for its support during her seven-and-a-half-year tenure.
“I hope that this community can rally around the library, the library staff, the board, and the (Friends and Foundation), and do what needs to be done to sustain a really precious organization,” Baker said.
“I don’t know what that’s going to look like, and it may take a few years to bounce back. But if it happens, it’s going to happen because the community wants it, not because of anything that City Hall does.”
Barr, Baker’s replacement, resigned from her job as American Canyon city clerk after being arrested on charges of felony DUI and driving under the influence causing injury with special allegations after her car crashed into multiple cars and buildings on Lincoln Avenue in Napa at 3 a.m. on Feb. 13.
Her passenger, St. Helena City Clerk Cindy Black, was injured in the accident.
At roughly the same moment as St. Helena city officials were confirming her appointment on Tuesday, Barr was in court in Napa, pleading no contest to one felony count related to the accident. She admitted that her blood alcohol level was in excess of .15, nearly twice the legal limit, District Attorney Gary Lieberstein said.
As part of the plea deal, Barr faces up to one year in jail and three years of probation, he said. She could have faced up to three years in prison had she chosen to go to trial in the case.
She will be sentenced July 22.
Lieberstein said a conviction on the charge carries a one-year suspension of her driver’s license, though he was not sure whether that would take effect upon her plea Tuesday or when the final sentence is imposed by a judge.
The city council, meanwhile, was meeting late Tuesday to consider a package of cuts including:
— Library cuts to total $300,000
— Lay off of Police Chief Jackie Rubin, with Lt. Bill Imboden appointed acting police chief effective July 1 ($229,400 cut)
— Postpone filling the position of Economic Vitality/Assistant City Manager ($118,150 cut)
— Reduce city attorney budget ($100,000 cut)
— Postpone the replacement of some fire department equipment for one year ($45,000 cut)
— Close City Hall Nov. 23-25 and Dec. 28-31 ($40,800 cut through unpaid furloughs to city staff)
— Closing the Teen Center and consolidating the library and recreation staff (no direct cut, but would allow the city to raise money by selling or leasing the Teen Center)