Dodging a Sex Offender

Last March the West Tisbury library trustees suddenly found themselves confronting what for most small town volunteers was the dilemma of a lifetime. Disturbing reports had come about the director of the town library through the town police department. Howard Curtis, who had been hired in June of two thousand and six, was an alleged sex offender. At that point there were no charges against Mr. Curtis, only allegations.

The library trustees acted immediately. They met with the West Tisbury town counsel behind closed doors — a proper thing given the sensitivity of the situation — to discuss a course of action. There had been no sexual misconduct, but there were some questions about Mr. Curtis’s job performance. Among other things, he had purchased some books for his personal use over the Internet using the town library account. He subsequently reimbursed the town for the books.

The library trustees and their counsel worked out terms for Mr. Curtis’s departure in a settlement agreement. He resigned in March of two thousand and seven.

All of the minutes from both the public and executive session sessions have since been released.

Last week Mr. Curtis, who is fifty eight, was convicted of rape in Haverhill district court and sentenced to eight years in prison. The incident that led to the conviction occurred more than twenty years ago. The victim is also suing Mr. Curtis in civil court.

The West Tisbury library trustees took heat in some quarters of town at the time for their handling of the matter, which was the subject of a widespread whisper campaign. But in fact the library trustees should be commended. They sent Howard Curtis packing long before they knew what he had done in Haverhill more than two decades ago. Police chief Beth Toomey is also to be commended for her frank communications with the library trustees.

And the story is now thankfully over.