Thursday, June 18, 2009

WB Library Board Wants its own Attorney?

The West Bend Library Board has scheduled an emergency meeting tonight, apparently to discuss hiring their own attorney to represent them, instead of the city attorney.

This is a bad, bad, bad idea.

Boots and Sabers has posted a response letter from the current city attorney, Mary Schanning, pointing out the numerous problems with this idea, not the least of which that the library is, in fact, a city agency that must be represented by the city attorney in any legal matters. She also points out that there's no avoiding the state's open records laws, which appears to be a motivating factor is seeking different representation.

Perhaps the board just wants to get a second opinion on some of Schanning's legal advice? That might be reasonable, depending on how much it would cost. But if they're truly looking to replace Schanning, that's a bad idea.

The open records laws exist for a reason, and the library board must respect them. And until Wisconsin passes a law allowing libraries to become indpendent entities, they must accept representation from the local city attorneys.

And while we're at it: why hasn't the library board posted any minutes from their meetings since January 6? C'mon, folks....

// Tonight, the board voted to enlist the services of Robert Feind, esq. Guess we'll see where this leads....


  1. You all should do an Open Records Request on Alderman Turner's emails.

  2. I agree with bovine - there is plenty of ammunition in those e-mails. The leader of the WBCSL has used ORR to further her cause - it's time to use perfectly legal means to turn the tables. Why hasn't anyone filed ORR on the City Council's e-mails or the school district's e-mails? I think you'd find out plenty about what you-know-who is up to.

  3. This is exactly why Alderman Vrana refuses to get an e-mail address. He doesn't have to be held accountable in his communications with citizens this way.

  4. I give you credit for raising legitimate issues. Instead of excusing the Library Board's possibly illegal actions, you too have called them into question.

    As to the minutes not being posted for half a year, is that typical, or is that just during the latest controversy?

  5. Two things:

    First, I have read that the Library Board members requested city email accounts, but were not given any (dumb move). So they use their personal email accounts. Open records has nothing to do with somebody's personal mail, so Schanning is wrong and no wonder they are looking for outside counsel.

    Second, I wonder why it didn't occur to the Board members that they could have created free accounts,gmail for instance, to devote to library business, they could have opened those without conflicts.

  6. Gmail accounts would be a terrible idea, since the city cannot control them. You cannot let city representatives delete emails without proper archiving. That why the city indeed should have given them proper accounts.

  7. I agree with what John is saying. If they were mixing personal email and library business email, it wasn't smart. They should have been granted city emails (how hard could that have really been to do! why was this refused?!), and when they weren't should have kept separate accounts on their own. But that being said, if they are being asked to turn over personal emails- such as griping or venting to a friend or spouse about the library situation- I don't think that should be happening and it's not as clear cut as some are making it out to be. If that is what they are being told to do, then I support them looking for a 2nd opinion to protect themselves. But any legitimate emails to other board or library staff members should be turned over.

    Also, I wonder if the city attorney was advising them of these open records laws and to be careful with their communication from the beginning when things were getting messy. I wouldn't think ordinary citizens who are library board members (who are not politicians and most aren't lawyers) would be used to this kind of scrutiny or fully familiar with those laws and would need attorney advice to protect themselves and also to preserve careful records of business communications.

    Also, it sure sounds like that letter from the city attorney was attorney-client privilege. Was it sent to anyone besides the board members? If not, which of the board members released it and was that ethical and legal to do?

  8. I agree there should be an ethical investigation into how the letter from the city attorney was released to B&S.