Greetings. I’m Dan Kleinman from SafeLibraries® brand library services. I provide public awareness of crime and sexual harassment in libraries and inappropriate books in schools due to American Library Association policy.
It has come to my attention that you are allowing a “public” meeting to occur that violates your meeting room policy. I say “public” in quotes because it is not a public meeting. It is only for a certain portion of the public and specifically excludes another portion. That violates your meeting room policy and general principles of free speech in public buildings. https://www.stmalib.org/about-us/library-policies/meeting-room-policy
Using clever wording to get around having to comply with your meeting room policy may be clever in your minds, but it is not legal. The clever aspect is to ask parents to sign a waiver allowing children to attend a meeting without their parents, but where children will not be admitted without that waiver. It is an effective bar against parents no matter how cleverly it is done. "Parents are welcome to wait in the general Library areas, or in the other room we have reserved," says the people promoting the meeting: http://wash.org/sex-ed/ That means parents are not welcome to attend the meeting. That violates your meeting room policy.
The American Library Association has very good meeting room policy samples and reminds libraries they need to have good meeting room polices and to follow them. I support the American Library Association in this area. You have a good meeting room policy. You do not follow it.
It is on this basis that I will begin to seek legal means to force compliance with your own meeting room policy. Legal action will be too late to stop you from violating the policy now, but there may be serious consequences for your actions should you continue to violate that policy.
My advice would be to allow parents to attend, making the meeting compliant with your own meeting room policy, or to cancel the illegal meeting and reschedule it to when the meeting policy is being properly applied. That will obviate any legal action. Either means is really simply.
No one is saying not to have any particular meeting. You just have to have meetings in compliance with your own meeting room policy. If you stray, you may be sued.
I am currently suing another library for violating the state’s open meetings law to pass policy: http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2017/03/sunshine-week.html Also, I have been sued to silence my exposing homophobia and child porn facilitation by the American Library Association: http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2016/06/bittman-v-fox-dismissed-again.html The point here is I’m ready, willing, and able to find the means to bring suit if you go ahead with your illegal meeting that violates your own meeting room policy.
Let’s be clear I take no joy in getting involved in this matter, and I am only seeking to have you apply your own policies else sustain consequences for not having done so. This will be pain of your own doing. You are violating your own policy. I’m just the messenger calling you on it. So please do everyone a favor and either allow everyone to attend the currently scheduled meeting in accordance with your own meeting room policy or cancel it until you find a means to comply with your own meeting room policy.
That the meeting may be a “private” one as defined in your policy doesn’t absolve you of anything. Your policy states, in bold, because it is obviously so important, “Any use of the room which disturbs library customers or operations is prohibited.” And, to know if library customers might be “disturbed,” one merely needs to look at your own statements about the meeting when you initially cancelled the meeting the first time it was scheduled. You said at https://www.stmalib.org/pdfs/pr/LibraryTrusteesPressRelease.pdf “After careful review and unanimous decision, the Library Board and the Library is not moving forward with a program on sex education. This decision is based on our concern for the polarization of the topic in our community. We believe that any value to the proposed educational program would be smothered by diverse and divisive positions.” So the meeting is clearly “disturbing” to patrons, as you yourselves made so clear, thus it is prohibited, in bold type.
My understanding is blocking of parents from attending the meeting is what is most disturbing. Parents want to be able to discuss the issues that their children are learning, but that will be impossible since they are not allowed to attend. While that may be acceptable in a school environment or other such venue, this is a public library having a meeting room policy that is being willfully violated by allowing the private party to use a clever means of requiring waivers that in effect block adults from attending, so far as I can tell.
So it’s really simple. Follow your policy and allow parents to attend the existing meeting or reschedule until the means to follow the policy is employed. If you do not follow your policy or use a clever means to fool people into thinking you are following your meeting room policy when you are not, that’s when the trouble begins, and it will be trouble of your own making.
I am CC’ing the local government since while libraries enjoy autonomy to act within the law that created them, they do not have autonomy to act outside the law, and if your local government does not stop your ultra vires activities, it too may be liable.
I note, by the way, that the library already appears to have violated the law with respect to meeting room policy. The April 2017 agenda https://www.stmalib.org/board/Agenda_April17.pdf (NOTE ADDED 23 MAY 2017: link since deleted, see full comment below) says, “Executive Sessions: Meeting Room Policies.” That violates your state’s open public meetings law; you are required to talk about meeting room policy issues in public, not in executive session. See http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/OpenGov%20Documents/omaChapter4.pdf Having already violated state law will not help you in any way should legal action be brought against you.
I’m certain you can see what I have said is quite reasonable.
Can you imagine the ruckus you yourselves will cause if parents attempt to enter the “public” meeting then are blocked or even arrested for attempting to do so? Then even your police department will be drawn in to the resultant mess.
And I urge parents to bring video cameras to the public building and keep the tape running before, during, and after they attempt to enter the “public” meeting. Tape the whole meeting — it’s a public meeting, why not?
You have a brewing problem on your hands yet a very easy means to address it.
Please let me know what you have decided.
SafeLibraries® brand library services
641 Shunpike Rd #123
Chatham, NJ 07928
THE LIBRARY'S FIRST RESPONSE:
Dear Mr. Kleinman,
My name is Michael Blackwell, and I am Director of St. Mary’s County Library.
Thank you for your email.
In response, I am copying Mr. James LaRue, Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom & Freedom to Read Foundation of the ALA, and Ms. Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Office, with whom we have already been in frequent communication on this matter. I am also copying our State Librarian, Ms. Irene Padilla. I am also copying our attorney, Mr. Joshua Brewster.
In reply, at least for now, I will only provide you some information. Our meeting room policies currently allow private groups to reserve space. You have pointed to the ALA’s guidelines on meetings, which may be found here. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations/meetingrooms Please note this: Written policies may include limitations on frequency of use, and whether or not meetings held in library meeting rooms must be open to the public. If state and local laws permit private as well as public sessions of meetings in libraries, libraries may choose to offer both options. The same standard should be applicable to all. Our policies do not state that meeting rooms that have been reserved for private functions must be open for public use. The event you refer to is not a library sponsored meeting. The group that has reserved as a private space is requiring a parental signature to attend the program, not us. Under our policies on private use of the meeting rooms, they would be within their rights to close a space in this way. Any parent attending would have to agree to this restriction ahead of time. This invalidates a statement you have made: Parents want to be able to discuss the issues that their children are learning, but that will be impossible since they are not allowed to attend. Any parent allowing their child to attend would understand this. Your proposed legal action seems like an effort to allow people unrelated to the teens, who have their parents’ blessing and permission, into the room. With this in mind, I ask that you reconsider your position.
My understanding is that the group reserving the meeting rooms are offering a public forum as well. Concerned citizens, including yourself should you be so inclined, may attend that forum.
Now that you have this information, I hope that we might have a discussion of this matter. I make no further reply for now nor any comment on our future course of action. You may well get a much fuller reply once I have had the opportunity to discuss this situation with Mr. Larue, Ms. Caldwell-Stone, our Trustees, and Mr. Brewster. I add only that the library does not endorse the content of the event this Sunday. We are only interested in the fair use of our meeting rooms.
Director, St Mary’s County Library
Dear Director Blackwell,
Thank you for responding.
Thank you for contacting the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom. On the issue of public library meeting room policy, they are pretty solid. I'm certain they will advise you correctly and I hope your library acts accordingly.
I appreciate the library board's meeting room policy allows for private events. But you neglected to address the original issue I raised about the line in bold text being violated and the statements your library already made proving the line in bold text would be violated should the meeting go forward as is.
Regarding the private event offering a public forum as well, that has two problems:
1) It is false. Advertising for the private meeting calls it "teens only," as shown in the graphic below, and the site's registration form makes no mention of such a separate event, at least it doesn't to this point in time.
2) The library board's allowance for a public forum does not address the underlying issue of the violation of its own meeting room policy. Actually, it evidences an intention to keep the potentially illegal meeting in place using yet another clever means. This may worsen potential liability. It is the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson approach to free speech, separate but equal. Can you image having a private party for an anti-Trump event and having separate rooms for adults and children into which neither may go? Of course your library policy would not allow for that. Similarly, your library policy does not allow for any separate but equal fiction already proven false decades ago in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
So your response may have the effort of worsening the cloud of litigation and liability under which the library board and the county government now operates. You neglected the key issue that violates the policy, and the library board's own statements about that key issue, and you suggested a separate but equal approach would be acceptable to ameliorate any deficiency. Besides, evidence shows there is no separate but equal event advertised nor planned.
This is good: "You may well get a much fuller reply once I have had the opportunity to discuss this situation with Mr. Larue, Ms. Caldwell-Stone, our Trustees, and Mr. Brewster." However, if the library chooses to go ahead with the meeting as currently planned in a manner that violates library policy, then speaking with them may be too little, too late.
I appreciate this is a tough and emergent issue for the library, but that is never an excuse for violating the law.
I have made this issue public here:
- "Notice of Possible Legal Action Regarding Meeting Room Policy"
Good luck in guiding the library board accordingly.
THE LIBRARY'S RESPONSE TO MY REPLY:
I am legal counsel for the Board of Trustees for the St. Mary's County library system. I have reviewed your emails to Mr. Blackwell in regards to the reservation of two rooms at the Lexington Park Library on May 21. Your allegations are completely without merit, and I will not engage in the legal arguments here. I ask that you refrain from further contact with Mr. Blackwell and direct any further communication to me.
I appreciate your consideration.
Joshua S. Brewster
Attorney at Law
MY RESPONSE TO THE LIBRARY'S RESPONSE TO MY REPLY:
Thank you for letting me know.
I urge you to read this book, it may help you considerably when representing the library board:
- SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment
If I may assist further, please let me know.
NOTE ADDED 18 MAY 2017:
I'm in a publication on the issue:
- "Lexington Park Library Planning Extra Security," by Joy Shrum, The BayNet (St Mary's County), 18 May 2017.
By juxtaposition, the publication makes it appear my efforts are in support of those using religious means and flyers to oppose the meeting.
To be clear, I seek to hold the library to its own meeting room policy, especially given the library has violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act. That violation is itself a violation of §23–405(f)(6), a second violation of the law. The library has violated at least two state laws and is about to violate its own meeting room policy. And, as explained below, the BayNet article proves the library board, as represented by the library director, has violated a second library policy.
Of course, it's too early for official determinations of the various violations to have been made, so naturally this is all my opinion, but you can all read the laws and policies yourselves.
The BayNet article also quotes the library director saying flyers cannot be left on cars due to a solicitation policy. The solicitation is about commercial solicitation and explicitly allows "Non-profit and community organizations, advocacy groups and individuals who wish to distribute flyers, engage in petition drives or advocacy activities...." Only they "must be approved by the Director at least 2 weeks in advance," which is, as we see in this case, a suppression of free speech. Those flyers are free speech under the First Amendment, raising a public and political issue about the library itself, and the library director is complaining about them and saying, "'They cannot do that. It's in violation of our no solicitation policy and we have asked them to stop....'" So we see, yet again, another violation of another library policy.
It's beginning to become a string of violations.
So the library complains about free speech that it opposes, but doesn't complain when its own free speech meeting room policy is violated or when various state law is violated.
And notice how the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department is being informed by the library director. That means it is being misinformed. The library, if it goes ahead with the illegal meeting, will be holding illegal meetings, asking St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department to provide security, but not advising that the meeting is illegal as currently constituted.
You see, when you break the law, the crimes just keep piling up. A huge, public relations disaster is rolling downhill and no one's willing to stop it. If the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department enforces an illegal meeting, whether or not it has or has not been misled by the library director, then it too may have cause for legal concern.
Of course it should provide security, but it should not favor an illegal meeting. Adults should be allowed to attend the meeting, and the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department should help enforce their right to do so, as one possible example.
Lastly, "TheBayNet.com has reached out to SafeLibraries for comment on the pending litigation and has not yet heard back." I am not aware of such an invitation for comment. A spam filter may have caught it. I can be reached at 973-610-8296.
NOTE ADDED 19 MAY 2017:
Media reports now include that St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department will be providing security for the illegal meeting. It is a "private," non-library illegal meeting. Library operations are being disturbed just to provide security for this non-library event.
That is a second violation of the library's meeting room policy. The policy for "non-library functions" prohibits, in bold, "Any use of the room which disturbs ... operations." The need to hire or arrange for security for a "non-library function" disturbs operations, among other things. Indeed it is frequently used as the reason to cancel conservative speakers on American campuses. And this requirement is so serious it is the only substantive line in the policy that is in bold typeface. It's right there in black and white and bold.
It has been my experience that when libraries start breaking policies and laws, the ball starts rolling down hill from there. Then a desperate attempt is made to ridicule the whistleblowers so attention is drawn away from the actual violations and liability therefor. Eventually, the American Library Association will get involved, as it already has in this case, and advise librarians to destroy evidence so none will be uncovered by sunshine law document requests.
The illegal meeting is Sunday. As originally stated, simply allow parents to attend or otherwise restructure it to comply with the library board's policy.
NOTE ADDED 20 MAY 2017:
"'Library Watchdog' Targets Lexington Park Library" http://www.thebaynet.com/articles/0517/library-watchdog-targets-lexington-park-library.html
I view this as media covering for the library by attacking me. Right in the title Joy Shrum starts mocking me as a, scare quotes, "library watchdog."
Then, the first sentence is filled with three significant and intentional efforts to attack the whistleblower:
"Dan Kleinman, a self-proclaimed 'library watchdog' recently threatened to sue St. Mary’s County Library over a planned Sex Education class for teens on Sunday, May 21."
Dan Kleinman is correct.
I am not "self-proclaimed 'library watchdog.'" That was a name given to me by another reporter in another state. I adopted the name. But Joy Shrum uses it to ridicule me right off the bat, even right in the title.
I did not threaten to sue the library. I said I might consider it or others might consider it. Besides, when ACLU threatens to sue, does media mock them as busy body "watchdogs"?
I did not do what I did "over a planned Sex Education class for teens." I did it because the library is violating its own policies and its own state laws. She is playing the guilt by association game. I never once had a bad word to say about that class's contents nor its teacher nor its sponsor.
So right there in the title and very first sentence is fake news. That fake news is designed to spin the story so the whistleblower is the bad guy and the poor, put upon library board is angelic and would never break any laws or policies.
Okay, I'll start reading the rest of the obvious hit piece now.
And the issue for you and your community is significant. Who cares she wrote a hit piece on me, I get that all the time and American Library Association was even involved in a federal lawsuit to silence me about its homophobia and child pronography facilitation. I was dismissed out twice and ALA could not censor me. These hit pieces don't bother me in the slightest. I am so not intimidated by child pronography facilitators and their supporters.
But from your community's perspective, you have media actively working to provide air cover for the library board's lawlessness and possibly your county government allowing the lawlessness to proceed.
I see the rest of the article now. It's Joy Shrum and Bay Net acting as the advocate for the library board, presenting my legitimate arguments and having the library director slough them off. There's no serious consideration of the issues raised.
Your media are working against you. Nice, huh?
And she doesn't even link to my publication like she did last time, before she starting spinning fake news for the library board. That's exactly what ALA does to prevent people from seeing what I say, unfiltered by the bias.
Am I being harsh on her and Bay Net? Perhaps, but this particular article of hers will, in my opinion, harm your community by misleading them about the facts and the laws and policies being broken by the library board and possibly the county government.
You've got a big problem down there, and now it has expanded to your media.
SETTLEMENT OFFER ADDED 22 MAY 2017:
Here is my library settlement offer, made in response to someone's question:
SETTLEMENT OFFER TO @STMARYSCOGOV #LIBRARY:https://t.co/pqjb8NESzS@LarryHogan @BrianFrosh @USAO_MD @MDLibraryAssoc @ALALibrary @OIF— Dan Kleinman (@SafeLibraries) May 23, 2017
Well, it depends on what you mean.
If you mean the "private" meeting, then multiple library policies were violated in multiple ways, and if so, illegal would mean not in accordance with existing policy -- I'm not sure if a library board violating its own policies is illegal per se or if some other term applies.
If you mean the open public meeting of the library board in April where the meeting room policy was discussed per agenda in the executive session and not in open session, then that would violate Maryland state law.
Having said that, the illegal meeting of the executive session -- the 1st meeting -- preceded the illegal "private" meeting -- the 2nd meeting --. Indeed, how to handle the 2nd meeting was likely discussed at the 1st meeting. The 2nd meeting is the fruit of the 1st meeting. The 1st meeting was illegal. The 2nd meeting violated library policy but was held per the illegal 1st meeting. It is fruit of the poisonous tree. It too is illegal.
Were the library interested in avoiding what's about to ensue as a result of the library board's lawlessness, it should announce that it will discuss at an open meeting exactly what it discussed in the executive session in April, and provide the recording of that executive session to prove it has done so, or, even more easily, simply make public the recording of that illegal executive session meeting.
That's how easy it would be to make this all go away. Everything else that happened after that is the fruit of the poisonous tree. So if the library board reverses its initial illegal action, legal liability and the ensuing consequences melt away just like that.
Of course all this is all my opinion. I am not a practicing attorney. I am not providing legal advice.
But the law is the law, I can read it as well as you, and being a library or a librarian does not provide exemption from the law.
The library board and director has been counseled by the American Library Association that I am a really terrible person and that they should not give an inch, else I would become even more of a terrible person. Your library board, so far, is following ALA misguidance to a tee, so far. ALA is even part of the library's mission:
Notice there it says, "A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of ... age...." Yet that is EXACTLY what occurred here, and likely exactly what was discussed at the 1st meeting in violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.
I hope you can help your library board to get over its obsequiousness to ALA. ALA will not pay one iota for the mountain of taxpayer money ALA causes communities to expend with bad advice trying to protect its own policies as applied locally. A library in Illinois, for example, ran up a bill of over half a million dollars to follow ALA advice to defend against child pornography whistleblowers. The library eventually lost before the courts and the Attorney General, but taxes were raised on the citizens to pay for the effects of the bad advice from the ALA.
Sometimes that bad advice is actually illegal advice. ALA, for example, the very same person Michael Blackwell says he consulted for help, wrote to librarians telling them to destroy evidence precisely to keep people from obtaining public documents under that state's open records act. This is the person advising your library board and library director:
So your library board will not bend. It will continue on with the illegality, goaded on by ALA, so ALA is happy I don't get a feather in my cap.
I'm not looking for a feather in my cap. The library board is violating the law and I just exposed the lawlessness.
If you or someone convinces the library board to release the video recording of the illegal April executive session and show it to the public, your library board will have righted its wrong, and I will withdraw all my concerns over the illegality of that 1st meeting and the subsequent fruit of the poisonous tree.
NOTE ADDED 23 MAY 2017:
NOTE ADDED 29 MAY 2017:
I struck out the above note added 23 May 2017 since I received a satisfactory answer from the library director.
For those interested, the St. Mary's County Library Board of Library Trustees Meeting April 2017 Agenda can be found here:
NOTE ADDED 30 MAY 2017:
The St. Mary's County Library Board of Library Trustees Meeting April 2017 Minutes have been published. That contains the following: "There was a short discussion on the upcoming SMASH Sex Ed program and our Meeting Room Policies that allow this even." Look:
That further cements the violation of the MD OMA law. It seems clear to me the library board had something to hide and illegally used an executive session to hide it.