The Lexington Public Library owes Kathleen Imhoff, its former chief executive officer, an undetermined sum of money because it dismissed her without cause in July 2009, an arbitration panel ruled Friday.
In a 2-to-1 decision, the arbitrators said Imhoff had a four-year employment contract that allowed the library board of trustees to fire her for cause and not be obligated to continue paying her $137,035 annual salary.
However, the library board fired her without cause. Though allowed under the contract, there were no terms regarding compensation. That means the library was required to honor the remaining two years of her contract, the arbitrators said in their legally binding decision.
The library could be asked to pay nearly $1 million in damages, including salary, benefits and retirement contributions, plus legal fees and arbitration fees, said Richard Getty, Imhoff's attorney. Lawyers for both sides are expected to file motions on potential damages by March 1.
"Ms. Imhoff feels vindicated," Getty said. "We feel like justice finally has been done."
The library's current executive director, Ann Hammond, referred questions to library attorney David Porter, who did not return calls.
The library dismissed Imhoff after the Lexington Herald-Leader detailed more than $134,000 she spent on travel, meals, gifts and other items over five years. A city audit later raised more questions about library spending and reported that 1,522 images of "adult materials" were found on a library computer assigned to Imhoff, in violation of library policy.
Imhoff defended her spending as proper and denied viewing adult images on the computer. Imhoff said she took the computer home with her for work duties, and someone else evidently used it to view the images without her knowledge. She also said her work office had been broken into on three occasions, allowing someone to tamper with her computer.
"I was not even in town the days that they said there were problems with it," she said Friday.
In 2010, Imhoff sued the library in Fayette Circuit Court for more than $5 million in damages. She alleged that she was fired in violation of her contract, that she was defamed and no longer could find professional library jobs, and that she was discriminated against because she is a woman.
Judge Thomas Clark dismissed the defamation and discrimination claims but referred the contract violation claim to arbitration.