SANDRA CHAVEZ, the Laingsburg librarian exonerated last July after being accused of falsifying work hours and defrauding a hidden police camera, was issued a public apology from the city of Laingsburg. The city of Laingsburg announced a settlement with Chavez, who resides in Bennington Township. The apology states that the city agrees with the “library board’s determination that Sandra Chavez was working in accordance with the terms and conditions of her employment.” The letter continued, stating, “the library board has determined that Ms. Chavez did not defraud, cheat, or engage in time card fraud with regard to her work hours,” and no evidence was found showing that she had “stole or maliciously destroyed police or fire property.”
The community library came under scrutiny after an investigation by Chief Dan DeKorte led to Chavez’s arraignment in December 2017. By early January 2018, Chavez had filed a lawsuit against the city of Laingsburg for a violation of the state’s Whistleblower’s Protection Act (WPA), public policy wrongful retaliation, both age and ethnic discrimination, abuse of process and malicious prosecution. Chavez had been suspended from employment without pay. She was exonerated and ultimately won her $90,000 lawsuit and the apology on April 23.
In a recent interview, Chavez shared that the entire situation remains a bit mysterious, even to her. She said that DeKorte knew she had nothing to do with the camera equipment since someone else had admitted to removing the item within 24-hours.
Beyond an arduous 19-month long struggle, Chavez has returned to her library position. “I came back to prove to myself that I could. I didn’t want to walk out. I wanted to hold my head high. I belong here. I’m staying.” Chavez remains invested in Laingsburg, having moved to Bennington Township in 1988 and working in Laingsburg for 19 years. Prior to that, she had been employed as a librarian at Shaftsburg Elementary.
The Laingsburg Public Library is located at 255 Grand River Rd., downtown Laingsburg. A six-member library board handles the organizational function of the library. Over the lengthy legal process, Chavez stated that all six of the original members of the board have been replaced with new members, but that the board stood behind her through all of it.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)