Editor’s note: It was incorrectly stated in last week’s Garfield Report that the Garfield County commissioners have a final say in appointing someone to the library board. The library board can still appoint someone despite disapproval from the commissioners. But, there’s more to the story…
Garfield County Public Library District (GCLPD) Executive Director Jamie LaRue attended the Monday, Oct. 16 regular Garfield County Board of Commissioners meeting alongside Hanna Arauza, who was recently selected by the GCPLD board of trustees to fill a vacancy.
Arauza initially appeared last week in front of the commissioners, but her appointment hearing was continued, in a motion from Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, in light of Commissioner Mike Samson’s absence at the time.
LaRue conveyed to the commissioners that the vacancy was posted to the library’s website from Aug. 28 to Sept. 27, as well as in two local newspapers. Arauza’s application was received on Sept. 5.
Jankovsky started out the conversation, stating that he moved to continue the hearing because he didn’t want Arauza to be at a disadvantage, knowing he would vote to disapprove her appointment. However, he said that it’s his understanding that the library board can still appoint Arauza despite a “no” from the commissioners.
He acknowledged that he has not read the books in question, but has been shown images by a group that opposes the books being on the shelves as is, which he considered “not only pornographic, but … sadistic, masochistic, pedophilic.”
Jankovksy claimed that he spoke with a school counselor from Roaring Fork School District who said students who had previously dressed up as Manga characters for Halloween later displayed “inappropriate behavior.” He did not clarify if the circumstance arose from the same Manga series in question.
Mike Samson spoke next, and acknowledged that Arauza’s husband, Steven Arauza, is running against him for the commissioner seat in the 2024 election. “That has nothing to do with what’s going to happen here today, but in full disclosure that’s good to know,” he stated.
“I’ve lived here all my life … basically,” he stated. “Garfield County is changing, there’s no doubt about it. There are more, for lack of a better word, more progressive people in our county then there were 50 years ago.”
“I would hope that our library board and our staff would exercise good judgment when it comes to making materials available to children,” Samson stated. He then went on to describe what he’s seen from the books as “filth, garbage, sickening things.”
“To be honest with you, I don’t even think adults should be looking at stuff like that … Why even have that?” he added.
Arauza clarified that when she addressed the issues last week, she was speaking on behalf of herself, as an individual and as a parent, not a representative. “I said, as myself … I’m comfortable with monitoring my own children.” Adding that as a board member, she would not be going in with a personal agenda, but rather an intent to listen to different parts of the community and experts, then make decisions. “I’d be responding to the needs of the community. I’d be representing my town of Rifle,” she said.
“I don’t have an agenda on this one topic, and there’s also a much broader set of responsibilities to a trustee than the current issue of the books,” Arauza continued. “Not to diminish that this is extremely important to the community, but there are other things to consider as well. The library is trying to pass their budget for 2024 … things like that deserve input from a resident of Rifle. I want to be on this board so that I can fulfill all of those responsibilities, and I would be disappointed if this entire appointment was boiled down to an issue of a few books that are not appropriate for children.”
Despite Arauza’s final point, Commissioner Samson said he’d like to wait until after the Freedom to Read: Community Forum, held by the library district at the Ute Theatre in Rifle on Wednesday evening in regard to the Manga books, to make a decision about her appointment.
Chairman John Martin chimed in. “The folks that have angst, are asking not to censor it, not to remove, but only to reestablish location. Do you [Arauza] have a commitment to at least ask that question of the board?” Martin noted that 1200 people signed a petition to have the library relocate the books.
Arauza replied, “I think it’s absolutely reasonable to consider that in a discussion on the board.”
The county attorney, Heather Beattie, said that the most recent GCPLD bylaws she could find are from 2011 and 2012. LaRue stated he believed those were the most current, but that he would double check.
Martin confirmed with counsel that the county commissioners get to “review and officially appoint [library board trustees], but [don’t] necessarily have to. The library board selects their committee. They’re independent and stand by themselves.”
Counsel added that if the commissioners do not act within 60 days, according to state statute, it would be considered a ratification of the appointment.
Most notably, however, Martin inquired if, according to the bylaws, the commissioners could remove a member (or members) of the library board who refuse to do as requested by the commissioners.
Counsel pressed the chairman for clarification. “Hypothetically speaking, you’re asking Mrs. Arauza to commit to something … and if she does not follow through with that commitment, can you then remove her under the bylaws? Is that the question?”
“Correct,” replied Martin.
“There is a provision in the bylaws that allows the removal of trustees for very specific actions, willful misconduct, negligence of duty — those two actions specifically,” Beattie answered.
Commissioner Samson made his motion to continue the appointment hearing to Nov. 6, which was unanimously approved.
Commissioner Jankovsky then made a motion “that pornographic materials not be accessible to children in Garfield County Libraries and that children are not allowed to check out pornographic materials from the Garfield County Libraries; and that’s direction to the library board from the board of county commissioners.”
Counsel pointed out that the question would boil down to, “What is pornography?” She continued, “Clearly people have different views of that … It would be a very difficult thing to prove.” It would come down to a court case across the street at the Garfield County Courthouse, she concluded.
The latter motion also passed unanimously.
To view the Oct. 16 meeting in its entirety, visit www.garfield-county.com/board-commissioners