Shame on the Mid-Columbia Libraries board members, again. What's so fascinating about their back room that they keep taking their meetings there?
Especially meetings that ought to take place in the open.
Recently, we criticized the way the board selected the library's new director, lamenting that we never knew who else was in the running.
Today we're unhappy with the way it closed the Eltopia branch.
It seems misleading -- or at least suspiciously convenient -- that when the district was making announcements about shifting library hours to accommodate patrons' schedules "with no extra cost" and "still within budget" the possibility, or eventuality, of closing one of the branches didn't come up.
And we aren't the only ones disappointed with the board.
Patrons of the Merrills Corner Branch got a letter in December explaining that the branch was closing. If there was any advance warning, library patrons missed it.
They feel short-changed and they ought to. An after-the-fact notification is no substitute for a public process.
In response, the community submitted a petition with 275 names on it asking the board to reconsider the decision. Which they did.
In a closed session.
An illegal closed session.
After which Director Kyle Cox read from a "prepared" statement that the board understood the community's feelings and had listened to its concerns.
If you don't seek out the view of patrons or give them a chance to address the board, how much consideration are you really giving to their petition?
Exactly when did the board listen to their concerns?
The board cited "personnel issues" as a reason to go into a closed meeting. The exemption for "personnel issues" under the state's open meetings act was created to protect the privacy of individual employees. It's used for discussing performance reviews and disciplinary actions -- not where to transfer your displaced part-time employee.
The library board's interpretation -- an exemption for any action that might affect employees -- is ludicrous on its face. That logic could be used to justify closing any discussion.
Even if the exemption applied, its use in this case doesn't pass the sniff test. The library board members found it benefited them -- not library employees -- to discuss the Eltopia branch in secret.
This decision -- and the discussion that led to it -- needed to be held in the light of day and the fresh air.
Making decisions about the public's money in a vacuum has become an infection with this board.
Either this board just doesn't understand the open meetings law or it is are in contempt of it.
One or the other.
Neither excuses its actions or serves the public.
Does it make sense to close the Eltopia branch? Possibly. The people who use that library don't think so, but no doubt a good case can be made for the decision.
Is it the right decision? Maybe. Was it reached within the spirit or letter of the state's open meetings act? Absolutely not.