Library Board suspends July meeting after public comments raise concerns

The Trails Regional Library Board of Trustees meeting is suspended Wednesday night, July 24, after public comments raise concern as to how board members are selected.

ODESSA — The Trails Regional Library Board of Trustees voted to suspend its July meeting after more than 30 minutes of public comments raised questions about how board members are selected.

More than 40 people attended the meeting Wednesday, July 24, at the Odessa branch of Trails Regional Library, 107 W. Mason St.

Former member Scotty Walker raised the question of why he was no longer on the Board of Trustees.

“I am going to ask that the board suspend this meeting because I do not believe the replacement board members were properly selected based on the information the county commissioners were given,” Walker said at the beginning of the public comments on Wednesday.

The Trails Regional Library Board consists of five representatives from Johnson County and five representatives from Lafayette County. Board terms are four years and expire on June 30 of the fourth year. New board members begin their four-year terms on July 1. Members are allowed to serve two four-year terms.

This year, Johnson County had two members with expiring terms.

June 30 marked the end of the first four-year term for both Board President Walker, Holden, and Treasurer Judy Wolter, Knob Noster.

With Walker on the board, each of Johnson County’s four branches of Trails Regional were represented.

Before June 30, Walker represented Holden, Wolter represented Knob Noster, Jeany McGowen represented Leeton, and Michael Greife and Marcy Bryant represented Warrensburg.

Board information states, “Each member serves as a representative for the entire library district, but is expected that members can provide particular insight on the communities in which they reside.”

According to minutes from the March meeting, on the 20th, Judy Tyler, Corder, made a motion to recommend the reappointment of Amanda Travis, Lexington, and Ron McMullin, Lexington, to represent Lafayette County and Walker to represent Johnson County. It passed 9-0.

Then in the June meeting, minutes show the board elected officers for fiscal year 2020 with terms to begin July 1, 2019.

JoLynne Soendker, Odessa, made a motion to elect Walker as president, McMullin as vice president, Tyler as secretary and Wolter as treasurer.

Amanda Travis, Lexington, seconded the motion and it passed 8-0.

Johnson County Clerk Diane Thompson stated that on April 8, 2019, she received two letters from then-Driector Rochelle McCaulley.

One stated that both Walker and Wolter sought reappointment.

The letter also asked the County Commission to review Wolter’s eligibility as she had served a partial term before her first full term following the resignation of Eula Burton in November 2011. Burton’s term began in July of 2011 and was set to expire in June of 2015.

The letter stated that if she was eligible, Wolter wanted to be reappointed.

At the same time Thompson received this letter, she states she also received a letter from McCaulley stating concern about reappointing Wolter and Walker.

“This letter is speaking on behalf of the numerous concerns that have been brought to my attention regarding two of our appointed Johnson County Board of Trustees; Judy Wolter from Knob Noster and Scotty Walker from Holden,” a portion of her letter reads. “The complaints have been on-going for months, but are worse due to the correspondence that was sent anonymously to county offices in March. My recommendation is the consideration of their reappointments to not be completed but, rather, seek other community members to represent these communities.”

The letter also signified her intention to resign from her position.

The letter was dated for April 8, but a sticky note on the letter asked it be held until after the April 17 board meeting, as McCaulley had not yet notified the board of her resignation.

Tanya Shelton-Council was named the new director of Trails Regional Library in July.

However, at Wednesday’s meeting, board members stated they had no knowledge of the letter given to the commission in regard to concerns about reappointing Wolter and Walker.

Thompson stated that on April 15 she received another email from McCaulley with names of two potential people from Knob Noster to represent Johnson County.

“I am happy to report I have two individuals from Knob Noster and that are coming to you TWO days early,” stated the email from McCaulley to Thompson on April 15. “Staff were very eager to assist.”

The email stated it was understood only one would be chosen between Shelba Williams and Anna Marie Dudte.

A third name, with an application, was then presented to the County Commission on July 15.

An email from Kyle Constant, assistant director district administration, provided the name of Joshua Welker, Warrensburg, as an additional applicant to the board.

The County Commissioners sent Williams and Welker letters, dated July 16, saying they were appointed to the Library Board.

Board members stated Wednesday night they were unaware Williams, Dudte and Welker were presented to the commission.

Walker stated he received a letter on July 22 stating he was no longer on the Library Board. He said the letter was dated for July 16 and postmarked for July 19.

Walker, Holden residents, Holden officials and Johnson County officials addressed the Library Board on Wednesday searching for answers.

“I know I am very confused and disappointed, McGowen said. “I feel like us as board members, and I do not know if this is private or not, should have been told something and I am just a little shocked.”

Other board members also expressed concern for the process of selecting new board members.

“I know from the minutes from the March meeting that the board wanted Scotty from Johnson County and he agreed to that,” Tyler said. “We did not name any other people to send their names to the board for appointments for Johnson County, and that is why I am at a loss for why Scotty has been fired, so to speak, and why we have two new board members who I do not believe should be seated at this time because we need to resolve this other question first.”

Holden Mayor Doyle Weeks was also present for Wednesday’s meeting.

He showed support for Walker and brought concern to the Holden branch as a whole.

As it stood at Wednesday’s meeting, Holden was not represented on the Board of Trustees.

Weeks also spoke on his concern for the condition of the building for the Holden branch.

“I am very disappointed in the building myself,” Weeks said.

He said if changes are not made to how the Holden branch is maintained, Holden has discussed removing itself from the Trails Regional Library system.

“The city has taken it as a slap to the face,” Weeks said.

After more than 30 minutes of discussion, with an additional 20 minutes of discussion to follow, Johnson County Western Commissioner Charlie Kavanaugh proposed a plan moving forward.

He recommended information from the Library Board on who sitting members want on the board be resent, and then “maybe we can take action as a commission.”

Kavanaugh said “maybe” because it must first be confirmed that it is all done legally.

Greife made a motion to suspended the meeting.

A role-call vote unanimously passed the motion.

Following the vote to suspend the meeting, Shelton-Council said that as director, she sees all branches equally.

“I am dedicated to all the branches getting everything they need,” she said. “Holden is not the only branch in the system, and I am addressing them as fast as I can.”

Shelton-Council said that even though Holden does not have a representative on the board at this time, that does not mean that branch will be left behind.

“No branch is going to be forgotten because we are all a system,” she said. “No branches are going to be left behind.”

Shelton-Council said she is still learning about the branches and the system as a whole.

“We are working as a unit system to get better,” she said. “I need you all to help make us better.”

Managing Editor of Digital Publishing Derek Brizendine can be reached by emailing derek.brizendine@dsjnow.com, by calling (660) 747-8123 or on Twitter at @DerekBrizendine.

(1) comment

Sonya-K

This is shocking news to me and the whole thing has a stinch to it. Maybe we should ask the question of who or what in this prior working equation has changed??? Anyone new coming in to small communities in such a role need to gain support not divide. New ideas and progression is necessary to grow but without leaving a trail of unnecessary casualties. I urge the JOCO Commission to take note and nip this in the bud regardless of who is stacking the cards. Don’t smother a working, productive fire in good volunteers. Look around. It’s what’s wrong in the world today. Make a difference by “doing right”.

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