Library can't choose its own trustees any more

Carson City Library trustees on Thursday lost some of the autonomy they have enjoyed since the library was established 34 years ago.

The library board members will no longer formally interview applicants who want to become trustees.

The Carson City supervisors decided Thursday they should interview library trustee applicants and choose who should be appointed to the library board.

"I'm terribly disappointed," said Georgette Maddox, who only recently became chairman of the library board. "I just hope the library board will be able to work as well together as it has in the past."

Senior Judge John Ray made a special point of attending the supervisors meeting.

"I put a lot of blood and sweat and tears into the library and I want to make sure nobody screws it up," said Ray, a library board member from 1989 to 1998.

Until now, the library board interviewed candidates and submitted its recommendations to the supervisors, which generally approved the trustees choices.

The supervisors did allow the trustees' last interviews and recommendations to stand. Supervisors on Thursday appointed Barney Dehl and Terry Terhune Amundson to fill two vacancies on the library board.

Dehl, former chief of the Nevada Highway Patrol, was appointed to a four-year term. Amundson, a nail technician, will finish the last year in the term of Brenda Wipfli, whose resignation as the board's chair earlier this year led to Thursday's action by supervisors.

Wipfli questioned the library board's method of selecting trustees and gained a champion in Supervisor Kay Bennett, who for years has had confrontational relations with the library.

Wipfli triggered an uproar among library trustees and Library Director Sally Edwards early this year after sending out letters about library business without consulting with the board and Edwards, several sources said.

Wipfli in a letter to Bennett charged that "board members selecting their own board members has created a closed loop within the library."

Deputy District Attorney Melanie Bruketta in April reviewed the library board's recruiting, interviewing and recommending procedure, which led to extensive revisions to the library's bylaws in June.

These revisions formalized the advertising of trustee openings, the interview process and set a policy to ask all applicants the same questions.

Supevisors pushed those changes aside.

The Board of Supervisors interviewing future library board applicants brings the library board in line with all the other city boards and commissions, such as the Regional Planning Commission, the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Carson City Convention and Visitors' Bureau.

The Carson City Library Board is the only city board that interviews its own candidates while also having the power to hire and fire the library director with no involvement from the Board of Supervisors.

The library board still retains its hiring/firing powers.

Bennett took issue with Edwards frequently suggesting people to serve on the library board.

"In all my heart, I believe you really are well intentioned," Bennett said. "You guard your library tenaciously. But that does not give you the license to hand-select applicants to your board and her's why. ... One of the responsibilities (of trustees) is to hire and evaluate the library director. I feel that it is a conflict of interest for library directors to have a director hand in selecting of board members."

Edwards quickly responded, "I have no vote."

Other board members were more concerned with the library board fitting into the vast family of city boards and commissions than with any possible indiscretions.

"I think we should be clear that nothing was done inappropriately," Supervisor Jon Plank said. "I think they were doing their best to do the right thing."

Mayor Ray Masayko took a similar stance and Supervisor Robin Williamson simply looked at how other city boards function.

"I'm seeking consistency with our policy," said Williamson, an ardent library user.

Edwards, the library's director for 15 years, tried to convince supervisors that library trustees are better qualified to interview applicants because of the special concerns libraries face with censorship and First Amendment issues.

John Ray echoed those thoughts.

"We want to make sure we ask the proper questions and make sure these people (library board applicants) know what they're getting into," Ray said.


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