3 City of Phoenix employees fired for Burton Barr Library water damage

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A powerful monsoon storm caused major damage to Phoenix's central library on Saturday night. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A powerful monsoon storm caused major damage to Phoenix's central library on Saturday night. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Crews from the Phoenix Fire Department worked through the night in July to clean up storm damage at the Burton Barr Central Library. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Crews from the Phoenix Fire Department worked through the night in July to clean up storm damage at the Burton Barr Central Library. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
A view of the 5th floor of the library during a storm damage tour on Aug. 18. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A view of the 5th floor of the library during a storm damage tour on Aug. 18. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
A view of the 5th floor of the library during a storm damage tour on Aug. 18. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A view of the 5th floor of the library during a storm damage tour on Aug. 18. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Library storm damage tour on Aug. 18. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Library storm damage tour on Aug. 18. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Three City of Phoenix employees have been fired and three others disciplined in connection with the Burton Barr Central Library water damage that occurred in July, according to Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher.

Two other employees were demoted and one was suspended.

The library has been closed since the July 15 storm damaged the 25-year-old building's roof above the fifth-floor fire suppression system.

Zuercher said and immense failure to communicate resulted in the serious consequences.

[READ: The official report]

"What I’m most disappointed and embarrassed about is there are a million people a year who use that library for their kids to read, to get jobs, to go to college, to get a high school diploma. That’s all closed down," said Zuercher.

[RAW VIDEO: Phoenix City Manager discusses library investigation]

Three City of Phoenix employees fired, two demoted, one suspended

  • Nevenka Markac, Security Systems Supervisor -- Terminated (and then applied for retirement)
  • Jeff Schade, Electronic Systems Specialist -- Terminated
  • Troy Wahl, Project Manager  -- Terminated
  • Tammy Ryan, Management Services Administrator -- Demoted (and then applied for retirement)
  • Todd Nejbauer, Building Facilities Superintendent -- Demoted
  • Janice Stroud, Deputy Public Works Director -- 40-hour suspension

An internal review done by the city states at least those six city employees knew or should have known about serious problems with the library's fire sprinkler pipes but did nothing.

According to the city's report, in 2014 a routine inspection uncovered the sprinkler pipe system had leaks. 

The documents show a contractor recommended repairs to employees, and those employees went to their supervisor with the findings, but the supervisor told them the library couldn't afford it. 

The problem went unfixed. 

In the spring of 2017 the library had a one million dollar budget surplus that could have been spent on repairs and maintenance. But no one brought up the problem with the pipes, even when asked. 

Just a few months later, Monsoon storms caused those failing pipes to give out.

There is also an active investigation of the Phoenix Fire Department's response to the incident, Zuercher said. The outcome of that investigation could result in additional disciplinary action.

Zuercher said he believes the damage was absolutely preventable which is why he took the drastic action.

"The message to the community is that we’re accountable for our actions and we understand what happened is unacceptable," said Zuercher.

The library will be closed until the summer of 2018.

Repairs will include replacing the roof, the fire sprinkler system and other parts of the building and are estimated to cost $6 million to $8 million, an expense that will be covered by reserves and insurance payouts, Zuercher said.

[SLIDESHOW: Storm damage at Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix]

The city manager said fire-suppression system normally doesn't have water in it, but it was filled automatically when the roof tiles lifted by storm winds fell back down and dislodged dust and debris that the system's sensors took for smoke.

With Burton Barr closed, the city has moved library staff to the system's 15 branches while expanding hours in branches nearest to downtown and moving books and other materials from the main library to branches.

Library officials previously said the flooding damaged approximately 6,000 books, a small percentage of the main library's 500,000-book collection.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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