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ELKHART -- Elkhart Public Library Director Connie Ozinga and the library parted ways today, after the library's board of directors accepted a "separation agreement" that had been worked out between Ozinga and the board.
Under the agreement, Ozinga will receive 20 weeks of her salary and will receive health benefits for the rest of the year, or until she is employed elsewhere, according to board members at the special meeting.
Ozinga had been with the library since 2000, after the retirement of former director George Brich. Ozinga oversaw the completion of the Cleveland branch of the library and refurbishing of the main library and other three branches.
A statement from the board of trustees said the library system is financially sound.
"In the past year, however, the board of library trustees has seen the necessity for moving ahead with different leadership as it meets the challenges of the future in management of resources and personnel. The board and Ozinga thus have come to a mutually agreed upon separation agreement," it continued.
Assistant Director Deborah Stewart will serve as interim director until a search committee finds a new director. The director is responsible for the library's main branch in Elkhart, and four neighborhood branches -- Cleveland, Dunlap, Osolo and Pierre Moran.
A handful of people who attended the special meeting said Ozinga already had packed up her office.
At a systemwide staff meeting called by Ozinga on March 19, Ozinga told employees that she would be fired at the following Wednesday's board meeting. However, that action did not take place at the March 24 meeting. That night the board did approve a motion to not offer Ozinga a pay increase.
The rest of the staff is under a wage freeze as well, due to budget problems caused by state property tax reform laws.