Tuesday, November 22, 2011

La Porte County Public Library Makes the South Bend Tribune

It's in yesterday's edition.  Once a story gets picked up by the SBT, it gets picked up all over the state.  I'm especially amazed that Mark Phillips, the lawyer for the library, considers these violations a 'mere technicality.'  The law specifically forbids budget-related personnel discussions in a secret meeting.  The La Porte County Public Library discussed budget-related benefit cuts, branch closings, etc.....in secret meetings. 

It's only a 'technicality' if you imply that the Indiana Legislature didn't really mean anything by the Open Door Law.  And, in fact, the legislature is set to put more teeth in the Open Door Law, at least according to a report from the Hoosier State Press Association.  Apparently, Open Door Law related legislation tends to pass unanimously.  In the South Bend Tribune article, Mark Phillips expresses an intent to appeal the court's decision if it goes against the library.  He doesn't seem to understand - the higher up you go in state government about this, the more serious officials and judges get. 

The people I've talked to in state government all see Indiana's open access laws as the only way to clean up corruption at the local level. The laws empower citizens of the state to keep an eye on their elected and appointed officials. Basically, it's up to us to make sure that the people spending our tax dollars spend them wisely. And it was this taxpayer oversight that Fonda Owens, Mike Essling, and the rest of the La Porte County Public Library Board tried to avoid in their secret meetings. 

Why? Well, this is just my opinion, of course, but I think it's because they don't actually care what the taxpayers think. They've been treating the library as their personal fiefdom for too long. Fonda Owens and her companions seem to think that the taxpayers of La Porte County will put up with eliminated departments, diminished services, fewer programs, fewer materials and a closed branch so that she and her cronies can give themselves raises and rearrange the library to suit their convenience. Fortunately, the patrons of the La Porte County Public Library have the Open Door Laws at our disposal. It's our library. Fonda Owens works for us. We need to speak up and remind her that the Library Director of the La Porte County Public Library is not a divine right monarch, but a servant of the people.

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