Library Lawsuit Claims Contract Executed Without Proper Authority
Save Our Library filed a new complaint on Monday alleging the City of Santa Clarita violated the California Education Code in establishing its municipal library system.
The amended lawsuit states that by deciding to withdraw from the Country of Los Angeles Public Library system and, in doing so, contract with a corporation that provides managerial services for libraries, the City overstepped its authority by failing to establish a board of trustees.
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“No monies could be expended except by a board of trustees,” said Don Ricketts, the attorney representing Save Our Library.
On October 18, the City entered into a five-year, $19.1 million contract with Library Systems and Services, or LSSI. According to the lawsuit, the City has paid LSSI $75,000 thus far.
“They absolutely have to appoint a board of trustees and only it could contract with LSSI,” said Ricketts.
The lawsuit alleges that the City violated the Government Education Code’s Municipal Libraries Act, which maintains, among other things, that a five-member board of trustees may purchase materials, fund new facilities and enforce regulations governing its libraries.
“We’re trying to sort through it. We’re still undergoing our analysis of his arguments,” said City Attorney Joe Montes.
At its regular meeting on January 25, the City Council approved an ordinance that established the Santa Clarita Public Library system, which will open July 1 and contain the libraries in Valencia, Canyon Country and Newhall.
The text of the ordinance also contains guidelines for the system’s board of trustees.
Neither the Municipal Libraries Act nor the ordinance adopted by the City give a timeframe for when the board of trustees must be established.
“The Council will be appointing a board sometime within the next few meetings,” said Montes.
Under the Municipal Libraries Act, a mayor or other leading city officials can appoint the members.
“I may be misinformed on this point, but I believe LSSI’s contracts in other jurisdictions are with the city and not with the board of library trustees,” said Montes.
On Tuesday, Montes said he couldn’t predict when the lawsuit would wind up in front of a judge.
“I think it will be a while,” he said. “Aside from the new legal arguments (Ricketts) is making, he still has some procedural problems.”
According to Ricketts, he has filed three lawsuits that are all pending. The two on behalf of Save Our Library contain different causes of action concerning the California Public Records Act and the Municipal Libraries Act.
In December, a judge in the Los Angeles County Superior Court knocked out one of the causes of action in the first lawsuit.
The third lawsuit, filed on behalf of Santa Clarita resident Ed Shain, alleges a Brown Act violation during the process of withdrawing from the County Library system.