Library Board: Council member not needed 2013.09.11

For many people attending recent Morenci city council meetings, the discussion about appointing members to the Stair Public Library Board of Directors has reached the ad nauseum stage. It’s become a discussion—quite unpleasant at times—that just doesn’t end.

Of course it will end soon, most likely with the appointment of a council member to the board. 

Morenci mayor Keith Pennington recently discovered that state law allows him to appoint library board members, with council’s approval, and also to appoint a council member to the board.

That’s new territory for the board. There’s never been a city council member serving as a voting member of the board and library director Colleen Leddy has expressed her displeasure, stating that it injects a political element to the board. That concern is doubled because the mayor has said that the board is too progressive in his opinion.

Mayor Pennington stated Monday that his philosophical preferences play no role in choosing to appoint councilor Brenda Spiess to a three-year term on the board. His concern, he explained, is for the citizens of the city. The city appropriates a large sum of money to the library and he wants someone on the board to represent taxpayers.

We find fault with his reasoning because there’s already a council member present at every library board meeting. Furthermore, council must approve all expenditures that exceed $1,000, just as it does for other city departments.

A council member is assigned to represent the city in fire department affairs and DPW and police department needs, but there isn’t a councilor voting on policy and day-to-day operations. Why is the library different?

Everyone will be glad when the saga is over, but it isn’t like to end in the library board’s favor. The situation could change in the future, of course. Barring a successful write-in campaign, a new mayor will be in office in November and the new leader could have an entirely different view of library business. That’s what can happen when a mayor takes charge of filling empty board seats.