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.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Not the Background I Promised on the La Porte County Public Library

Because the La Porte Herald Argus just put the latest installment of the La Porte County Public Library saga online!  In a nutshell, Fonda Owens was director of the La Porte County Public Library, but now she's back to interim director. It's even crazier than that though, because she's also the woman who orchestrated the coup to get the last director fired.  Mike Essling is the chairman of the La Porte County Public Library Board.  It's a volunteer position - his day job is with INDOT. He's the one Fonda Owens persuaded to fire the previous direction, and, in the meeting of October 27, he claimed that he was personally involved in choosing which employees to cut.

But the biggest issue is that they did everything in secret, with no chance for taxpayer comment.  Indiana Open Door law forbids this.  But I'll have a crash course on the Open Door Law in the next post, followed by a transcript of the meeting where they broke it, so you can see for yourselves! (I'll also post the audio of the meeting.  One great thing about Indiana law is that citizens are strongly encouraged to tape all public meetings and disseminate the recordings to the public at large. )

She's Ba...ack

Wow. It's been a long time since I blogged!

At the moment, I am about a month away from having a baby, have a new part-time job that pays well but keeps me from blogging (because I'm being paid to write!) and am involved in a huge library scandal that has totally turned our lives upside down.

However, I'm starting up the blog again, mostly because I need a place to compile news and links about the library scandal.   For those of you who aren't from Indiana, I'll also provide a little background in the next post.

But just a heads up-- I'm back in business, at least until the latest short person is born...