GUILFORD – The Guilford Select Board, at its regular Monday evening meeting, issued a statement regarding what it said was a “correction of misinformation regarding the library’s vote review”.
“There was a letter, an anonymous letter, sent around the city – we don’t know exactly how many people, but we’re guessing about 30 different city officials received the letter,” the president of the city said. Select Board, Zon Eastes. “And the information in the letter … it works from every wrong point. He says the library can’t go ahead with a plan. It is simply not true.
At the March town hall, Guilford voters approved a $1.2 million expansion to the town library by a vote of 348 to 333.
However, after a reconsideration vote on May 24, the expansion project failed by a vote of 405 to 375.
Friends of the Guilford Free Library has raised $140,000 in donations, and since 2018 residents have voted to set aside a total of $312,000 in the town’s capital improvement and maintenance plan for renovation and expansion.
Voters were asked to pledge $205,000 for the project and redistribute an additional $195,000 left over from a water project.
The remaining money was to be raised through private fundraising, state grants and incentives, and private foundation fundraising.
“The library project could still go ahead, but not on bail, nor can the Select Board spend the $195,000 on it,” Eastes told the Reformer the day after the reconsideration vote.
He also said he did not know if the article on the failed mandate would be rewritten and proposed again at next year’s town meeting.
“Know that many citizens of Guilford are watching,” the anonymous letter read.
“The May 24, 2008, Section 7 reconsideration vote barred Guilford voters’ approval of the library building project,” reads the letter, which the reformer is printing as presented. “The same vote of reconsideration also prohibited the spending of the $195,000 bond bank funds and the $205,000 loan. Some believe that the library construction project can go ahead with other sources of funding. That’s not true.”
According to the letter, the wording of the article as presented to voters – “‘Will the voters of the town of Guilford authorize the construction of improvements to the free library in Guilford…’ means that no renovations to the library cannot take place.
At Monday night’s meeting, Eastes said city attorneys disagreed with that conclusion.
“The question on the ballot was whether the City should fund $205,000 and reallocate $195,000 of funds held with the Vermont Bond Bank for library improvements, not whether the City should make library improvements” , read the letter from Monaghan Safar Ducham to Burlington, which Eastes read aloud during the meeting. “Without the funding issues, there is no legal requirement for voters to determine if improvements should be made to the library. … If funds for improvement are available without the City incurring debt, improvements can be made without voter approval.
According to state statutes, the letter says, the library board has “full authority to manage the public library, establish bylaws, elect officers, establish library policy, and to receive, control and manage the property that will come into the hands of the municipality by gift, purchase, bequest or bequest for the use and benefit of the library.’ Thus, it is at the discretion of the administrators to use library funds for the construction of improvements.”
“What we all need to understand, and this is perfectly legal, is that the library [as elected officials] …consider the welfare of the library in the future,” Eastes said. “Of course they have to speak with the select committee they need to talk about their plans.”
Eastes did not share the anonymous letter at the reunion, saying, “It’s not even worth talking about. It’s wrong, it’s wrong. … It’s not in our interest to put it forward in this town. … The select board will maintain this position that, in fact, the library board has the right to proceed. And if there are any financial considerations that need to come into the discussion, then those will be presented to the city as they have already been twice in the past year.
“At the moment,” he continued, “the important issue to understand is that the library board is working within the law, and there are no expectations in the city, as this assumes. letter, that the work must stop because the voters have not I want to spend it in two ways.
Cathi Wilken, who has been a librarian since 1998, in a letter to the editor acknowledged receipt of what she called “a letter with a threatening tone”.
“Why anonymous?” wrote Wilken, who declined to comment further. “Was the writer/band ashamed of the opinions he/she had, and didn’t want to identify with them? If a person is unhappy with the decisions of the Guilford Free Library, this is not the right way to encourage a different approach.
Laura Lawson Tucker, co-chair of the library board, also declined to speak to the reformer.
But at the July 28 select committee meeting, Richard Wizansky, a member of the select committee and library board, read a letter from Tucker, who also acknowledged receiving a copy of the letter.
“As co-chairman of the Guilford Free Library, I am deeply offended and disturbed to receive an anonymous letter which I believe is threatening,” wrote Tucker, who reported the letter to Vermont State Police. .
Adam Silverman, spokesman for the VSP, said an investigation, which was carried out by Westminster Barracks, “determined that the letter did not constitute a breach of the Threats Act”.
“I am troubled that the person or persons who sent this letter are using what appears to be a menacing scare tactic regarding their opinion of the proposed Guilford Free Library expansion,” Wizansky said. “We have legal, respectful and neighborly ways to agree and disagree on matters at Guilford. This letter is not one of those ways. The public should know about it. I refuse to be treated this way.
The July 25 and August 8 meetings were recorded by BCTV and are available at https://www.brattleborotv.org.
PUBLIC RECORDS ACT AND PUBLIC RECORDS LAWSUITAt Monday night’s meeting, council members also discussed updating the city’s public records policy to align with state laws.
“We will better understand how we can meet demands in the future,” Eastes said. “And we will be able to better educate our employees on how they can resolve these issues and what documentation may or may not be provided.”
Under the Public Records Act, all public records are open to public inspection or copying, except as specifically provided by law. According to the Secretary of State’s website, there is a basic set of 42 exemptions under the law, but there are subsets under the law, totaling over 200 exemptions.
Eastes said the council did not intend to restrict access to public records, but to streamline the process so city employees understand what is and is not public and how long they have. to answer.
Eastes acknowledged that the city’s policy review was a result of the library expansion discussion.
Guilford resident Jason Herron requested a number of documents related to the expansion, the town’s conflict of interest policy and conflict of interest statements collected by the town from various members of council.
Herron filed a lawsuit in Windham Superior Court, Civil Division, appealing a denial of access to public records.
“I would greatly appreciate the Court’s intervention and assistance in holding Guilford Selectboard accountable to Vermont laws regarding the public records I seek to obtain,” Herron said in the filing.
In their response to the filing, city attorneys said Herron had received all of the existing documents he requested. They also argue that because Herron did not appeal to the “head of the agency regarding his request for public records”, he did not exhaust his administrative remedies.
Therefore, they wrote, Herron’s complaint should be dismissed.
“While Mr. Herron may be upset that it appears that every member of the Selectboard has not completed the questionnaire every year, a call to the public records is simply not the appropriate venue for his concerns,” they wrote. writing.
“Mr. Herron jumps to the assumption that an annual request to Selectboard members to complete a questionnaire means that a complete questionnaire was submitted to the City each year by each Selectboard member,” the attorneys noted. “When ‘an official was asked to complete a form but did not do so or provide it to the City, no public record was created. … [T]There is no relief that this Court can provide via an appeal of the public records, as there are no withheld documents. The City simply does not have all the documents Mr. Herron is looking for…”
In an objection to the dismissal filed by Herron’s attorneys, Facey Goss & McPhee, said Herron’s request was to “discern whether a certain member of the Guilford Selectboard [Richard Wizansky] violated (among other things) the city’s conflict of interest policy in connection with his dual role as selection committee member and administrator of the local library. »
Herron’s attorneys also noted that the city was charging their client $816 in “administrative time” and $6 in copying costs to respond to his request.
The attorneys also noted that the city failed to comply with the three-day warrant under state law and took more than a month to respond.
“A hearing is required to determine whether the city improperly withheld or destroyed public records,” Herron’s attorneys wrote.
According to the state’s court filing system, a “notice of possible termination” was sent to Herron’s attorneys on Tuesday. The reformer requested a copy of the opinion but had not received it at press time.