The Manhasset Public Library Board of Trustees came out with a statement on Thursday, Feb. 27, stating their investigation found “insufficient basis” that Library Director Maggie Gough was motivated by racism and anti-Chinese bias during an incident on Dec. 14, 2019. The statement also says that no recommendation was made for the director’s removal.
The investigation was initially spearheaded by the board’s labor attorney Peter Fishbein and was handed off to former administrative law judge Elena Cacavas after Fishbein’s independence was questioned. Cacavas was recommended to the board by Fishbein to handle the investigation.
“This was an investigation that I conducted as I do always, completely free of any control or interference or input from anybody,” Cacavas told the Manhasset Press. “I have no allegiance to either side in this or any other investigation.”
The report was completed on Feb. 12, submitted to the board on Feb. 14 and the board voted and finalized their statement on Feb. 26. The library board is not making the report public, but cited the contents of the report throughout their statement.
“It was determined that Ms. Gough reacted to event irregularities which she felt were occurring in violation of the Library’s Community Use Policy,” the board’s statement read. “Many of those irregularities which she claimed took place were confirmed by video footage and multiple witness accounts.”
A petition was started by a parent, Sanjay Kantu, soon after the incident on Dec. 14, 2019, that stated, “Maggie displayed a very disturbing side of racism in front of my child, other children and families… I believe that she should be removed from her position in the library.” The petition currently has 885 signatures.
Cacavas told the Manhasset Press that she did not speak to any of the parents that were witnesses to the incident. The board’s statement states, “Other alleged witnesses who were not Library employees were invited to participate, and declined.” Cacavas did interview Roslyn Huang who lead the Camerata event in the library’s community room on Dec. 14.
“I asked [Rosylyn Huang] on several occasions for the names and numbers of people who could testify to the comments that were made, particularly the comments about foreigners, Ms. Gough’s behavior and composure at the encounter on the 14th,” Cacavas said. “Our interview ended with her not being willing to give me any names or numbers. I did call her mother as an accommodation and spoke with her on telephone and I never received a follow up call or texts from Huang with anybody’s information. She did tell me that she had given them my contact number and they would reach out if they wish to and nobody did. I tried numerous times to reach out to these people on my own.”
Huang believes the parents were willing to come forward as long as they were granted anonymity.
“The only reason they were willing to talk to the investigators and not the press because they were promised anonymity,” Huang said. “That’s the only reason. They’re not hiding anything. They’re not afraid of anything. Because they socialize with some of the board members and their children are involved, they don’t want the kids to be bullied because kids can be mean and they have every right to protect their children.”
Huang also said that the investigation was “biased.” She specifically points to Gough being with library board trustees Donald O’Brien and Judith Esterquest at Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth’s State of the Town speech that was hosted by the League of Women Voters in late January.
“They weren’t able to conduct unbiased investigation,” Huang said. “They didn’t even hear my side of the story. That’s how I felt throughout the entire statement. Like how is it possible that she’s perfect? They believed everything she said and all of us are wrong. How is that possible?”
The library board’s statement also delved into the Manhasset Press’ story that staff members allege Gough used the word “N” word during a staff meeting. The library board says that others present at the time offered contradictory accounts.
“The investigation concluded that the comment was made in reference to a 1960s vintage candy of similar name and was offered as an example of how societal tolerance for offensive speech has changed, during a sensitivity training session at the library,” read the board’s statement.
The library board did not respond for comment when asked the dates and instructor or company name of sensitivity training that took place at the library over the last 10 years.
The Manhasset Press stands by its reporting in the story “Library Director Has Used Racial Slurs Before, Staff Says” published on Jan. 8.