Officials take over Basalt library appointments
BASALT – The governments of Pitkin and Eagle counties and the town of Basalt are taking over responsibility for appointing members of the Basalt Regional Library District’s board of trustees following a rough six months at the library.
In the past, the library board itself interviewed candidates for openings, made recommendations and got ratification by the two counties and the town. The ratification by the governments was essentially a rubber stamp, Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane said.
Now, the three governments will each appoint two members to a commission. The six-
member commission will interview the candidates and make appointments. The library trustees won’t play a role in the process.
The library trustees essentially have decided who was going to join the board for decades, but the overhaul hasn’t ruffled feathers.
“We have no objection whatsoever,” said Judy Royer, the president of the library district’s board of trustees. “We have 10 applicants that we’ll hand over to them, and they can take it from there.”
The library district is accepting applications until 5 p.m. Friday. It hasn’t been determined yet if the counties and Basalt will extend that deadline.
There will be pressure on the commission to make speedy decisions. One library trustee resigned Tuesday, and three terms are expiring March 1. That means four of seven seats will be unfilled if appointments aren’t made by the regular meeting on March 12. That will hamstring the board.
“It’s in a state of flux, and we’re looking at the counties for some direction,” said David Smith, attorney for the library district.
Kane said he doesn’t anticipate a problem for the commission to interview and appoint members by the March meeting. One of the three incumbents with expiring terms is seeking reappointment.
State statutes allow for the old way and the new way of appointing members to the library district’s board, according to Pitkin County Manager John Peacock. He said the new way of making appointments has been explored for several weeks. Eagle County and the town of Basalt recently agreed on the change to the commission.
All three governments operate within the library district’s boundaries.
Peacock said the move wasn’t a reaction to specific criticism aimed at the board of trustees in recent weeks. A group of patrons called Supporters of the Library wrote a letter to elected officials of the three governments Jan. 26 to “call to your attention a series of improprieties that we perceive are occurring in relation to the Basalt Regional Library District.”
The group accused the trustees of “a pattern of disregard of its responsibilities,” including financial oversight and supervision of the former executive director. The letter asked elected officials to increase their involvement in the appointment process.
Some trustees responded by saying the Supporters of the Library were meddling in the day-to-day operations in unnecessary ways.
Given the discussions taking place, it might be best that the three governments take over the appointment of trustees, Peacock said.
“It makes it a little more arm’s length,” he said.
Kane said the change in the appointment procedure is a good move that will allow the council to communicate its expectations from a representative of the town on the library board and assure accountability.
“That will pay dividends,” he said.
Kane said lost in the acrimony between the trustees and Supporters of the Library is the fact that the board members helped get a beautiful new facility opened in January 2010. The feuds over the trustees’ decisions on budget issues and the performance of former executive director Kristen Becker started about six months ago.
“It’s too bad that’s how democracy works,” Kane said. “It’s not always unmessy.”
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