Targeting Boards

I have stayed out of this fight for as long as I possible could. I assume, since you read the newspaper, that you are aware that special interest groups, concerned citizens, etc., are targeting local elected boards, now, including library boards, for action on cultural issues.  I want to clarify that I am not joining any fight, but I do think it is time for correct and legal information to be shared. 

Why is it time?  Last week I attended the winter MPLD (Missouri Public Library Directors) conference and heard some pretty ugly stories.  I found out that some libraries did not have public comment policies in place and that some boards were not as aware of public meeting laws and parliamentary procedures that they should be. A fellow director and friend had an individual attend a board meeting where he talked for 20+ minutes and not only demanded that the director be fired, he also called her a pedophile  because of one particular book in the collection, and yes, her board let him do all of this.  Nope, just nope.

So, here are some things people need to know.  If you already know this information, please share it with those that might not.  Chapter 610, of the Missouri State Statutes, which deals with Conduct of Public Business as it relates to governmental bodies and records, requires the meeting to be OPEN; it does NOT require that those in attendance be made part of the meeting.  Observers of meetings speaking are out of order if not recognized to speak.  Speakers on the agenda should be on topic.  Closed session is used for hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting of particular employees by a public governmental body when PERSONAL INFORMATION about the employee is discussed or recorded (the term “personal information” means information relating to the performance or merit of individual employees).  I pretty sure, that last one means that the individual calling my friend a pedophile was out of order. 

Boards do not have to agree to put people on the agenda.  THE AGENDA IS FOR THE BUSINESS OF THE ENTITY.  It is not a town hall meeting.  The board is NOT obligated to answer questions just because they are posed by a speaker.  With that being said, the library does have a public comments policy.  We have a public comment section at the beginning of each board meeting.  A public comment form must be filled out beforehand.  Each individual is limited to 3 minutes, with a period of 15 minutes total for each board meeting (the presiding officer has the discretion to extend the allotted time).  The presiding officer shall rule “out of order” all comments which are irrelevant, repetitious, derogatory of persons, businesses or organization, or which include language or behavior that is unlawful.  Upon conclusion of the public comment portion of the agenda, comments on specific agenda items will not be accepted from the audience.  As a general rule, the Board will not respond to public comments at the time they are made.  The Board may comment, take action or NOT take action with respect to a public comment at a future Board meeting, as it deems appropriate. 

I will repeat again, the agenda is for the business of the entity.  The County Commissioner appoints our library board and the school board is elected by the community it serves.  Boards are appointed by outside sources and elected so that they represent not just me, not just you, not the loudest, but ALL of us.    Let them do the job that they have been entrusted with, know the laws and procedures and as always, be kind. 

Upcoming Events: 12/15 Story Time at 10am, 12/18 Story Time at The Ranch House at 9am, 12/18 Gingerbread Houses for Families at 10:30am.  The Young Adult Reading Challenge has started (Adults can participate), swing by the library for more information.