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Copyright (c) 2009 Ginny Maziarka. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Library Board decides to obtain outside counsel...

We attended the Library Board meeting tonight. Here's the scoop:

Present: B. Deters, K. Engelbrecht, P. Geidel, J. Aynesworth, R. Lindbeck, J. Schaar, J. Fowler, D. Rakowski, M. Tyree.

7 p.m., Barbara Deters called the meeting to order.

Deters began with an explanation of the purpose behind the meeting. She stated there had been four Open Records Requests since winter. This, she felt, placed the library board members in a predicament that seemingly "violated our First Amendment rights" (I think she meant violated her right to privacy, or Bill of Rights, or something else, because this is not a 1 amendment issue.)

She went on to say that the library board members did not have "city emails for our protection" and complained that her request to the IT department was met with the response that the city was "under no oblication to give city email accounts" to the library board. Apparently, the IT department was given that statement from the city attorney in response to Deter's request.

Deters stated she had given a lot of thought to "this situation" and sought out people she had trust and confidence in, but made it clear that she did not speak to other board members. All counsel she received lent credence to her feeling that it was time to get a "second opinion from an outside source" as to the ORR issue.

The issue, stated Deters, was that the ORR sent to the mayor by myself used the term "library staff" and should not have, in her opinion, included the library board as they were not "paid or hired," according to the DPI (whom she confided in).

Furthermore, Deters was quite upset that "someone" had given out the city attorney's letter (see prior post) and it was posted on Boots and Sabers by 9 p.m. last evening. She said that it appeared the city was being run by bloggers and whoever leaked the information from the city attorney to Boots and Sabers was "unprofessional" and that it was inappropriate. She also said that those involved "did not have the best interests of the city in mind." She called the city attorney to clue her in to the blog post. Deters said that the city attorney told her that letter was "attorney/client privilege" and was not an open record to be shared. She glanced around the table, but nobody fessed up.

Since Deters did not agree with the city attorney's definition of the ORR to include the "broadest" spectrum of information possible, and also felt that the city attorney's definition was in direct conflict with the counsel she received from others, she thought the city attorney's interpretation was inaccurate and has sought the assistance of Atty. Robert Feind from Grafton. Feind, according to Deters, is experienced with ORR's and library issues. She was looking to the board to affirm her decision.

A number of questions came up, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The attorney fee, Deters said, was probably about $250 per hour. She stated "I will go and meet with him alone" to gather the information she desired, and would bring it back to the next board meeting. This would be a one-time meeting, with no future plans to obtain counsel from Atty. Feind. The funds would come out of ENDOWMENTS, not library funding, which Deters felt was appropriate for this matter.

Atty. Aynesworth suggested Deters contact the DOJ for the information she was seeking. Deters responded that she did not wish to wait that long as she was sure they would not be a "priority" on the DOJ's list of things to do. She wanted an answer "now."

Deters told the new board members tonight that "I feel sorry for you. Since 1982 this has been a very boring job. We are making up for it now."

Rakowski said that this endeavor would, perhaps, get the city to speed up giving them email accounts.

All voted unanimously to hire Attorney Feind.

MY NOTE: I wonder why the board could not have simply agreed to go back to the city attorney and tell her that they required email accounts or would be forced to hire this attorney? Perhaps that would have just avoided the expenditure of the ENDOWMENT money all together. Just wondering...)


Buzymom said...

So here's my question. If they don't have city email accounts and they are using personal emails to communicate with library board members, what exactly qualifies as meeting ORR criteria? If they sent personal emails to spouse, friends, etc venting or talking about current library issues using that same account- are those being included? If they are, I can see why they are fighting this.

SafeLibraries® said...

Wow! Might something illegal have occurred?

Setting all other issues aside, this is one of the most interesting library disputes I've ever seen.

One wonders what is so important for them to hide from the public, especially while they are arguing nothing should be hidden from children no matter how inappropriate.

Four of their members were not reappointed for stonewalling. It now appears all of them are stonewalling. I wonder what the consequences might be.

Concerned Parent said...

As a concerned parent and a tax paying resident of West Bend I am disgusted with the on-goings of the West Bend Library Board Members. The members are now seeking an outside Attorney ($250/hour) and receiving the funds from Endowments. As we all know an Endowment is: A fund that is made up of gifts and bequests; Donors may set up an endowment to fund a specific interest. Not only are the members taking advantage of these funds which are donated, I cannot fathom the thought which must be going on through the minds of those who have given to the West Bend Library.

It is simple no Attorney needed.Let's go back to the beginning. Move the book to the Adult section.

Please contact these Library Board Members and let your voice be heard!

Ald. Nick Dobberstein (262) 306-9925; Barbara Deters - Library Board Chairman (262)-338-2732; Kathryn Engelbrecht - President (262) 335-5151; Tom Fitz -Vice President (262) 338-2938; Patti Geidel - Treasurer (262) 335-5151; Mary Reilly-Kliss - Co-Secretary (262) 334-0974; Mary Jane Burdge - School Dist. Rep (262) 335-3679; John R. Aynesworth (262) 338-6706; James Pouros -O’Meara Law Firm(262)-334-2331; Barbara Deters -Library Board Chairman (262)-338-2732

John Foust said...

Yes, there's no legal obligation for a city to provide email accounts for all the various elected or appointed officials whose communications might fall under an open record request. Of course, many cities do give everyone such an email address in order to facilitate easy processing of requests, segregation away from personal email accounts, archiving, etc. in order to better comply with the law.

It's not illegal to use a Yahoo account for official business. It may not be a good idea (as it's not guaranteed in any way, as it's not archived, as it's not easy to archive, etc.) Yes, personal non-official communications could be reasonably excluded. Yes, a message that contains both official and private material could be legally redacted.

And although it sure might look like they're trying to cover their butts, look at it another way: They all probably need to be better informed about open record law. They recognized they wanted an expert opinion. Be glad you're getting two opinions, not one. I'm sure the city's existing attorneys will chime in, perhaps behind the scenes.

Anonymous said...

The irony being that the Library Board had a brilliant attorney (Pouros) as one of its trustees, but he was one of those not reappointed.

Kristina said...

My question if you filed an ORR did you specify what you were requesting? I ask because if included in the email is indeed personal Email than it would be understandable.
I you were a public official or served in some sort of public capacity and had an ORR filed against you and all you Email was for everything work and private how would you feel if there were Emails to your husband or children?
I don't know the exact terminology of your request is there a way you would be willing to share it on yor blog? It may serve to answer several questions and maybe even cool some of the public fury about this.
Just a question..