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Fired librarian files lawsuit

Rita Eckart, the former Librarian at the Gattis-Logan County Library in Paris, filed a lawsuit last week in 15th Judicial District Circuit Court claiming her May 30 firing by the Logan County Library Board was an act of retaliation in violation of the Arkansas Whistleblower Protection Act, according to court documents.

Attorneys representing Eckart filed the lawsuit July 1. Named as defendants were board members Lynn Wright, Lynda Brooks, Ellen Phillips, Leslie Oliver and Vonda Warren and Logan County Judge Gus Young, an ex-officio member of the board.

Eckart is being represented by M. Jered Medlock of the Medlock and Gramlich law firm of Fort Smith.

Eckart had been librarian at the library for 13 years. Her employment was terminated at a called meeting of the board on May 30. Board members gave no reason for the termination. After the meeting and after speaking with board members, Young said Eckart was employed on an at will basis and board members were not going to give a reason. Although an ex-officio member of the board, Young did not sit in with the board during an executive session that preceded Eckart’s termination.

Last week, Young, Wright and Eckart refused to comment about the lawsuit.

Papers filed in the lawsuit claim that Eckart was terminated one week after she went to the Arkansas State Library in Little Rock on May 23 and discussed with an official there a planned renovation of the library in Paris and the removal of items from the library’s collection. The lawsuit claims that “some approximately 8,500 separate items were destroyed and/or thrown away from the library. That destruction of these items which belonged to the public, is waste.”

The lawsuit further claims the library board took “adverse” action against Eckart because she “communicated in good faith to an appropriate authority.”

In the lawsuit, Eckart is asking for lost wages for a period of no less than seven years, until she reaches the age of 65, “damages for the cost of acquiring and securing insurance benefits for herself and her family” and attorney’s fees, as well as “any other proper and just relief.”

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