Unelected, appointed Westhampton Library President Tom Moore called respectful and civil taxpayers “abusive” during the Period of Public Expression at the February 15 board meeting.
We have appointed trustees accountable to no one because there are no elections. Appointed trustees emboldened to say they don’t want to hear what is on the minds of the people during their monthly allotted five minutes of Public Expression, the people who write the checks to fund library operations. Can you imagine if the WH school board president said to a taxpaying parent: We don’t want to hear you anymore. You are being abusive and are wasting our time by calmly stating your opinions. It would never happen!!
My husband, not having been to a library meeting since September or October, for his first time, asked the board if they would put the elected board question out to the public on the May ballot. Simply, yes or no, do the taxpayers want to elect library trustees since their tax dollars directly fund its operation, just like we elect school, Village and fire boards. Most LI association libraries already moved to elected boards (71%), some decades ago.
(Remember, the self-appointed trustees alone decided to remain appointed. They used our tax dollars to hire an attorney to produce their Report on the Selection of Trustees [April 2016], an opinion piece used to deny us our right to vote. They did NOT hold a town hall meeting soliciting patron opinions specifically on this subject. They decided on their own to continue to appoint each other.)
Mr. Moore replied that the Report “was the considered opinion (italics mine) of the board that was resolved last April and we really don’t want to go through this again. When people sit up here and volunteer their time for this issue to be raised at every single meeting…is frankly a waste of time and it’s abusive….Every minute that’s used by you and your wife is 10 minutes of man hours.”
My husband replied, “I disagree in having taxation without representation, I wouldn’t characterize that as abusive….I think it’s abusive to the general public if you refuse to even address this with the general public and ask the general public.”
First, each taxpayer is given 5 minutes for Public Expression. If a library governance topic is important to them, they should be free to speak. There are many angles to the elected board equation that can be highlighted.
Second, for many of the LI association libraries that went to an elected board model it was a long, public process, so keeping the issue alive is paramount. Tom Moore stated that the meeting room was “empty.” There were four of us present. Four more then the zero that used to come a year and a half ago. We once had 15-65 people regularly attending meetings for many months, but a few expressed that “it’s like talking to a brick wall” and found it discouraging to continue attending. I’m sure that was a board strategy. The board is accountable to no one and can do whatever they want. There isn’t even an overseeing body with any authority because the library’s 1897 Charter states it’s a “private corporation.” But, turnout is usually low for all meetings in general: Village, school. It’s February now, people are away, plus it was the HS POPS concert night, too. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t matter who is in the room. If one taxpayer shows up to the meeting and wants to speak for their 5 minutes of Public Expression they should not be intimidated or called “abusive.”
Third, if you don’t want to hear what the taxpayers have to say, don’t have your friends appoint you to the board.
Fourth, if your minutes are too precious, don’t accept solicited membership to the private governing club.
Fifth, what happened to basic human manners? Frankly, the board can simply say, “Thank you for your comments.” But not at the WH Library. Here, taxpayer opinions are “abusive and a waste of time.”
Sixth, as president of the board you should lead the employees by example. There are employee policies stating what constitutes proper, professional and polite interactions with library patrons. The Library Director and the Board oversee employees. No one oversees the Library Board, no outside entity and not the taxpaying public.
Let history be noted, too: “Ms. Moore’s husband spent several years on the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals. Mr. Moore, law clerk who specializes in criminal law, resigned mid-term in 2010 after taking heat for helping…draft a handful of controversial resolutions, including one that barred then-Village Attorney Hermon Bishop from sharing his legal opinions publicly (italics mine).” (Southampton Press, June 18, 2014) Why couldn’t the Village attorney’s opinions be shared publicly, especially since our taxes pay for Village government? Why the need to hide?
Trustee elections can be phased in and present trustees are free to run for election. Is anything being hidden now? Until the WH Library has an elected board of trustees we encourage a NO vote to the library budget increase for WH, WHB and Quiogue voters. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $5/per household increase (there’s over $4 million cash sitting in the bank anyway). Send a message by voting down the library budget increase that WE WANT TRUSTEE ELECTIONS!