It was a full house at the Monday, Nov. 6 Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) regular meeting. Members of the public took up the first hour and a half of the meeting speaking in regard to the ongoing library debate.
Resident John Steele explained his dissatisfaction with the Garfield County Library Board, starting with its three-minute time limit on public comments. “I’m surprised they didn’t pledge allegiance to the American Library Association (ALA),” he went on, inferring that a recent library board meeting did not open with the pledge of allegiance.
Steele said that he brought a letter to the commissioners Thursday, “applying to the open [library] board position for Rifle.” He added, if he were to serve on the library board it wouldn’t make much of a difference. “I would be a minority of one, and I don’t know if I’m up to trying to fight that battle. You’ve got to make a decision,” he told the commissioners. He added that “Several states, Florida being the most recent, have completely dissociated themselves from this organization,” referring to the ALA.
Before Steele finished, Commissioner Mike Samson asked if he still was “requesting that we appoint you to the library board?” Steele replied, “I would take that position, if you so do wish, but I think you need to understand the reality of your situation.”
Chairman John Martin piped in, “Just so you know, there’s a process. The library needs to review and then forward a recommendation to this board for appointment. We don’t make it just on our own.”
John Lepkowski reminded the commissioners that the intent of a petition, signed by roughly 1,200 Garfield County residents, is to place Manga books in an age-restricted area, perhaps behind glass, but not to ban them.
As reported in the Post Independent on Nov. 3, “During a board of trustees meeting on Thursday [Nov. 2], the county library system announced it will not move Japanese Manga books to upper shelves or place them in separate sections.”
Garfield County resident Michelle Diamond, shifted the conversation and expressed her support for the appointment of Hanna Arauza to the library board. Arauza was approved by the library board to fill the Rifle-based vacancy, but the commissioners have yet to approve that decision.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said that Arauza’s appointment was on the agenda for Monday, Nov. 13. “I think part of it is, does she represent the community of Rifle? And, that will be part of the decision making,” he stated.
“You know, nobody represents everybody,” Diamond responded.
“We run into that all of the time, Michelle,” Martin quipped, which was met with laughter from the room.
Debbie Bruell, the Garfield County Democratic Party chairperson, chimed in over Zoom. She explained that the commissioners, according to Colorado law, do not have “the authority to manage or control the library.” She went on to say, “According to Colorado law, you cannot appoint or remove library board members based on whether or not you agree with their opinions and their ideas.”
“I think we know that very well, Debbie,” replied Martin.
Later in the day, the commissioners went into executive session, “To confer with its attorney for the purpose of receiving legal advice on specific legal questions …” including, “specific legal questions about the appointment of trustees to the library board, and related specific legal questions around the BOCC’s action on Oct. 16 on pornography directed to the Garfield County Library Board.”
As reported in The Sopris Sun on Oct. 19, Jankovksy 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 …” which the commissioners passed unanimously.
“Hanna is wonderful, our library board is wonderful, and we’re on the right track,” Rifle resident Deb Grizzle said to the commissioners. “We don’t need to get on a different track.”
To view the Nov. 6 meeting in its entirety, visit www.garfield-county.com/board-commissioners