“I’m not trying to be a smart aleck about this, but this seems to be one of those cases where the old ‘be careful what you wish for’ adage rings true. I suppose that some of those who are running the library and the library board got what they wanted, but the price could end up being more than half of your funding and a few of your best and most-involved board members.”
— Seymour South Ward, Alderman Dan Wehmer
There will be change in how the Seymour Community Library operates.
No longer will the Seymour Board of Aldermen, per state law, be given any oversight in the local library’s operation, despite it technically being a city library.
That responsibility now goes to the Seymour Community Library Board, a nine-member group appointed by the city mayor with approval of the four aldermen.
But the membership of the library board will change, again per state law, as no members of the board can reside outside of Seymour’s city limits. An additional change to the library board comes courtesy of another state law that doesn’t allow board members to be related — by blood or by marriage — to a library employee.
Last Thursday at the group’s regular meeting, the Seymour Board of Aldermen discussed the upcoming changes at the Seymour Community Library.
Aldermen also replaced four of the library board’s nine members, including its president, Barbara Holmes, who lives outside of the city limits, and the library’s board most-recent former president, Christopher “Chris” Hume, because his mother, Joy Hume, works at the library.
In total, discussion surrounding Seymour’s library issues lasted nearly one hour at the meeting, with Dan Wehmer, a South Ward alderman, speaking on behalf of the city for most of that time, often asking direct questions to Holmes and Joy Hume about their respective interpretation of the state law concerning “governing boards” for libraries versus the role of an “advisory board,” which the city’s library’s board has been since the new facility was opened in 1998.
“I’m not trying to be a smart aleck about this, but this seems to be one of those cases where the old ‘be careful what you wish for’ adage rings true,” Wehmer said near the end of the topic’s discussion. “I suppose that some of those who are running the library and the library board got what they wanted, but the price could end up being more than half of your funding and a few of your best and most-involved board members.”
Removed from the library board due to their residency being outside the city limits were Nikki Hance, Holmes and April Owens.
Removed because of his family tie to a library employee was Chris Hume.
Added to the board, after each was nominated by Mayor Richard Vinson, were new members Ellisha Hastings, Janet Mitchell, Jennifer Pogue and Beth Porter. All were approved in unanimous votes by aldermen Jim Ashley (North Ward), Nadine Crisp (South Ward) and Wehmer. North Ward Alderman William Pogue abstained from voting because Jennifer Pogue is his wife.
Remaining incumbent members of the library board are Amber Johnson, Dorthy Kingery, Leveta Ray, Suzanna Smith and Kelly Stinnett.
“I do feel that Richard (Vinson) gave us a great slate of new members for the library board, as all four of them have master’s degrees, and two of them are current librarians at our school,” Wehmer said after the four new members were approved. “As we look ahead, I wish nothing but the best of luck for our library and the board that will operate it.”
Background of the issue
As an item on the meeting’s agenda, City Administrator Hillary Gintz opened discussion about the Seymour Community Library by saying there was “confusion about its operation,” noting that the question posed to her earlier this month was whether the library board was an advisory board or a governing board.
“Our situation here in Seymour is unique, very unique,” Gintz explained. “Our library is funded two ways, unlike a most other libraries. Part of the library’s revenue comes from a property tax, although that tax is very small.
“A majority of the library’s money comes from the city’s sales tax. None is obligated to the library; however, throughout the past, the aldermen always have given sales-tax funds to the library.”
Because the Seymour Community Library is funded both ways, Gintz said she learned from the state that the city’s library board is a governing board.
“That means (the library board) controls the entire operation of the library,” she noted. “They hire all of the staff, set all of the rules, set all of the hours.”
She continued, “There’s been confusion recently on the library’s side of the issue.”
That confusion, Gintz said, surrounded the desire by the aldermen for the library to have extended weekday hours and Saturday hours to accommodate patrons. In turn, the library board made it clear to Gintz, via a message from Holmes, that the library board backed the stance of the library’s staff, including employees Joy Hume and Teri Myers, that the extended and Saturday hours should not be added.
“What hours were you told by Barbara that the employees wanted to work?” Wehmer asked.
“From 9 to 5, Monday through Friday,” Gintz responded.
In turn, Gintz spoke to City Attorney Jason MacPherson, as well as state library officials, who concurred that the city’s library board was a governing board.
“So, in essence, the city has no say on any of the operations of our library?” Wehmer questioned.
“Correct,” Gintz said.
“Okay, if that’s the case, then what money is that board entitled to spend?” he asked. “To be more direct, what money does the library get outside of the sales tax that our board provides to them?”
Gintz provided a breakdown of the library revenue.
She said the city’s library tax, a property tax, produces just under $5,000 annually. Another $15,000 to $16,000 per year comes from the Blaine A. Childress Fund, an endowment for the library. Gary Childress of Branson annually donates another $1,000 a year, while other state aid, given through grants, averages $4,000 to $5,000 annually.
“And what comes in from the city’s sales tax?” Wehmer asked.
“This year, roughly $32,000,” Gintz responded. “We give the library 10 percent of our entire sales-tax revenue.”
“So, more than 50 percent of the library’s revenue comes from the city’s sales tax, money that isn’t required to be spent on the library?” Wehmer asked Gintz.
“That’s correct,” she responded.
Wehmer then said that under the current situation, he couldn’t support sales-tax revenue being spent for the library when the library’s board and staff refused to implement operating hours that didn’t adequately serve the people who pay for its operation.
“I’m just speaking for me, but I won’t ever vote to spend money that belongs to the people of Seymour and give it to a library board that’s not working in the best interest of the people it serves,” he said. “The city is a $5.5-million business, so to speak. Of that $5.5 million, this board has oversight of every penny. But now we don’t ... not at the library, which now is controlled by the library board.
“I really don’t have a problem with that if the board and staff are listening to input that we, the aldermen, hear from the people who elect us. We’ve all heard from people in our wards that expanded hours are wanted — later hours during the week on a couple of nights and being open Saturdays.”
Joy Hume then spoke from the crowd.
“I’m not working Saturdays,” she said.
“And that proves my point, Joy,” Wehmer responded.
“People don’t come when we’re open on Saturdays,” Hume said to Wehmer.
“How many times have you actually been open on a Saturday?” he asked. “I know you haven’t done that lately. And the few times you did do it, your hours weren’t posted on the door. They weren’t posted on social media. In fact, the hours on Facebook said you were closed on Saturdays for the few Saturdays you were open.”
“It doesn’t work,” Hume said.
“Because you don’t want it to work,” Wehmer responded.
“When hours are changed, it takes time for people to get used to the change. But you don’t want the new hours to work because you’ve just told us that you won’t work on Saturdays.”
“I won’t,” she said.
“Do you not see the problem here?” he asked Hume.
“No, I don’t,” Hume answered. “You’ve kept pushing on this for more than a year. We don’t want it.”
“That’s not for you to decide, Joy,” Wehmer said. “We don’t operate a library for the convenience of our employees. There are 2,000 people in this town. Many of them have said to me, to William (Pogue) and to the other aldermen that they would like to see us accommodate people who work out of town. That’s 60 percent of those who live in Seymour.
“All we’ve asked is that you try the extended hours for several months, to give it time, say, six months. Yet you keep fighting us on this and now have your board behind it.”
“Because it doesn’t work,” Hume said.
“It doesn’t work because you won’t give it a try,” Wehmer responded.
“I’m not working Saturdays,” she said.
“That’s been established,” he responded.
State’s rules are discussed
Wehmer then told everyone to review a 14-page handout regarding library boards that are governing boards, which were copied from Section 182 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri.
“Let’s start with the third page, Section 182.170,” he said.
“Barbara, as the president of the library board, I’ll direct you to that page.”
Holmes went to the page.
“It’s pretty clear, isn’t it?” Wehmer asked.
He answered his own question.
“It’s clear that the makeup of your board is in violation of state law,” he said. “Right now, six spots are for people who live in the city limits of Seymour, while three spots are filled by people who live outside the city limits.”
“It’s always been that way,” Holmes responded.
“I agree,” Wehmer said. “But for a governing board, that’s not allowed. All nine members have to live within the city limits ... within the boundaries of the library district.”
Holmes noted that her term on the board was ending on June 30. She added that since she had served three, three-year terms, she couldn’t serve another term.
“But the fact is, in light of what we now know, and in light of the fact you’re a governing board, you legally can’t be on the board now,” Wehmer said.
“I suppose not,” Holmes responded.
“Again, these aren’t my rules,” Wehmer said. “I didn’t ask for them to be enforced. For more than 20 years that I can remember, we operated with three members living outside of the city limits. We also operated with an advisory board. And no one challenged that. Until your board did. Until your employees did, all over opening the library a few additional hours and giving it a try.
“So, now here we are, and it’s crystal clear that three of your library board members can’t legally be on the board. We need to remove the three members who live out of town and replace them.”
Vinson then said he had a list.
He said the three members on his list all had agreed to serve.
They were Hastings, Pogue and Porter.
They would replace Hance, Holmes and Owens.
“I understand that April (Owens) hasn’t been involved with the library board since Delores (Turner) left as the librarian, and she didn’t realize she still was on the board,” Wehmer said. “I’ll make a motion that we remove the three members who live out of town and replace them with the three names that Richard (Vinson) just read.”
The motion passed 3-0 with William Pogue abstaining.
“I’m sorry, Barb,” Wehmer said. “To be honest, I know that you’ve been a great member of this board. I really hate to see you go. But these aren’t our rules. They’re the state’s rules.”
Wehmer then asked everyone to turn to the fifth page for Section 182.190.
“Barb, I’ll have you read that one and tell me what you think,” he said. “We’ve got a problem, don’t we?”
Holmes asked what Wehmer saw as a problem.
“I’ll read the final sentence, which includes this line, ‘No person shall be employed by the board who is related either by blood or by marriage to any trustee of the board.’ Do you now see the problem?” Wehmer asked.
“You’re the president of the library board ... well, now the former president,” he continued. “There’s a problem, a big problem.”
Hume answered the question.
“Well, that came up in the past, but Chris (Hume, her son) quit being the board’s president and became the secretary,” she responded.
“He’s still a member of the board, Joy,” Wehmer said.
“According to the state, that’s illegal. Either you can’t work at the library, or Chris has to leave the board.”
“Chris won’t mind leaving (the board),” she responded.
“Then we need to replace him to be legal,” Wehmer said.
“Richard, do you have a suggested appointee?”
“Yes, I do,” Vinson said. “Janet Mitchell.”
“I’ll make a motion that we remove Chris Hume from the library board and replace him with Janet Mitchell,” Wehmer said.
The motion passed unanimously.
Conversation comes to end
Wehmer then said there was little more to discuss about the library, adding that the meeting’s agenda was a full one, and there were several other issues to discuss.
There were no comments at the meeting from Myers, the library’s director, who arrived at the meeting at the tail end of the discussion, just before 6:45 p.m. She was present for about 10 minutes of the discussion.
After the topic ended, she and Holmes left the council’s chambers and went to Gintz’s office, where they remained for about 30 minutes. Joy Hume joined them near the end of their conversation. All three left the meeting near its conclusion from the building’s front door, not the west door where all three entered.
The library board’s next meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, April 1, at the Seymour Community Library’s meeting room. The public is invited to attend.