Below is the second FOIA request I filed with St. Mary's County Library, and it's to obtain the library law. Use it as a model for your own FOIA requests. My first FOIA request to the library and the library's responses thereto can be seen here: "Fulfilling FOIA Requests Is 'Disruptive,' Says Public Library Director."
A major way to know finding and applying existing library law and policy to remove DQSH is effective is that DQSH activists stay intentionally silent on that very point. Not even the American Library Association discusses this. DQSH activists completely leave out any mention of existing law and policy that may apply in a library, completely ignoring what the US Supreme Court ruled about the First Amendment in public libraries. Instead they repeat over and over and over that the First Amendment controls so anything, absolutely anything goes. See, "Maryland County Punishes Library for Hosting Drag Queen Story Hour, but Atheist and LGBTQ Organizations are Fighting Back," by American Atheists, American Atheists, 30 July 2019, emphasis mine:
- "The Commission’s action of partially defunding the Library ... raise[s] serious First Amendment concerns."
- "The undersigned write to advise both the Commission and the Library of their obligations under ... the First Amendment."
- "Moreover, the partial defunding ... ha[s] a chilling effect on the expressive activities of SMASH and PFLAG of Leonardtown. A government agency violates the First Amendment when it takes a regulatory or proscriptive action that creates 'a non-speculative and objectively reasonable chilling effect' sufficient to deter '[a] person of ordinary firmness' from engaging in disapproved expressive conduct."
- "As a center of knowledge and haven for freedom of speech, it is essential that the Library not be pressured into censoring events held in spaces open to the public."
- "The First Amendment does not permit a 'heckler’s veto.'"
- "The First Amendment prohibits the vesting of such unbridled discretion in a government official."
- "When the government targets not subject matter, but particular views taken by speakers on a subject, the violation of the First Amendment is all the more blatant."
Here are the American Atheists arguments about the law that defines the library and the duties of the library board of trustees to properly manage the library, and the right and duty of the County Commissioners to ensure the library board acts within the law, perhaps by charging the library for its excesses that have occurred as a result of a failure to comply with the law and their own policy:
- Don't look at the law, instead, look over here: First Amendment, censorship, freedom of speech, heckler's veto, and more First Amendment. This is America!
By the way, it does not help the American Atheists already false arguments to flat out lie to St. Mary's County Commission in its 29 July 2019 email. American Atheists, a tiny business in a light industry industrial park in Cranford, NJ, on the side of the New Jersey Parkway, inflated its membership 100 times to appear like a significant organization. Its letter says it has "more than 350,000 members and supporters across the country," but its 2017 Form 990 says, "THE ORGANIZATION HAS OVER 3,500 MEMBERS IN ALL 50 STATES OF THE USA." To be thorough, I checked the American Atheists Inc 2016 Form 990 and it too lists 3,500 members, 2015 Form 990 = 3500 members, 2014 = 3500, 2013/3500, 2012/3000, 2011/3000, 2010/3000. Before that no numbers are reported. So they are misleading the Commissioners about their membership numbers by saying 350,000 instead of 3,500. And isn't it odd membership numbers only changed once over the course of eight years? How can this organization that misleads the Commissioners and appears to mislead the federal government about membership numbers be trusted to assert knowledge of First Amendment law, or anything for that matter?
T-Bone: What do you say, what do you say to people who say this, what you're trying to do is trying to legitimize or, for lack of better word, normalize abnormal behavior?
Samantha McGuire: So I would argue it's not necessarily abnormal behavior, firstly. Um, and I would say that yes, I am trying to normalize it. I'm trying to normalize the idea that there are, um, infinite versions of human beings on this planet and why is that wrong?"
Source: "T-Bone and Heather With Samantha McGuire," Conversations With T-Bone and Heather, YouTube, 18 July 2019 at 16:39.Here is my second FOIA to St. Mary's County Library that can be used as 1) a model for filing your own FOIA for library law and that 2) explains how library law and policy should run local libraries, not the American Library Association that specifically trains librarians to circumvent communities and laws so as to target children:
Second FOIA Request:
FOIA Request - St. Mary's County Library - #02
From: Safe Libraries
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, Michael Blackwell
Dear St. Mary’s County Library Board of Trustees,
This is a FOIA request. Under the Maryland Public Information Act Title 4, I request copies of public records, specifically, the statutory basis for St. Mary's County Library. I ask that they be made available to me via electronic means such as attaching a PDF document in a response to this email.
Please waive all fees since the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of how the library is managed and whether it acts in compliance with the law and its own policies, as I will explain further below. This has become a concern ever since the County Commissioners have acted to require the library trustees to pay for police services provided to the library board at the so-called “Drag Queen Story Hour” on June 23, 2019. It raises the issue that the library may have acted outside the law, and the County Commissioners may have acted to force compliance with the law. I have been reporting on libraries violating various laws and policies for almost two decades and this request is related to news gathering purposes. This information is not being sought for commercial purposes. Should you refuse to provide free records to the media for disclosure to the public in a noncommercial fashion, then if there are any fees for searching or copying these records, please inform me if the cost will exceed $25.
The Maryland Public Information Act requires a response to this request within 30 days. If the records I am requesting for ultimate public disclosure will take longer than this amount of time, please contact me with information about when I might expect copies of the requested records.
If you deny any or all of this request, please cite each specific exemption you feel justifies the refusal to release the information and notify me of the appeal procedures available to me under the law.
Thank you for considering my request.
Here are the documents for which copies are requested. Keep in mind I am attempting to determine what the law says about the scope of what St. Mary's County Library may do legally. For example, it may be unlawful for the library to present or allow to be presented to the public programs that are harmful to the public. If the library acted outside the law, then the County Commissioners are not constrained by the library's autonomy to act within the law, and indeed may have a duty to act to restrain the library trustees to act within the boundaries of the law that created the library. If that is the case, the County may not only have had the right to charge the library for the police security fee, but it may have a duty to stop the library from acting outside the law by any means it deems fit. And if the library is acting outside the law, then all First Amendment arguments are fruitless. There is simply no First Amendment right to violate the law that created the library—for example there is a First Amendment right to Internet p-rn-graphy but the US Supreme Court ruled it may be legally blocked from public libraries. Similarly, there is a legitimate and even compelling concern that "Drag Queen Story Hour" is a harmful activity, harmful to the children attending the event, harmful to the LGBT community itself, and harmful to the County by allowing itself to be exposed to liability for actions that may fall outside the law, some of which are exemplified in, "Parents Explode As Republicans Refuse to Defend Kids From Library Drag Queens”: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/parents-explode-as-republicans-refuse-to-defend-kids-from-library-drag-queens And having parents who wish their children to attend such events is not a reason for the library to violate the law that created it—the parents can simply go to a bookstore or public park or other venue that is presenting "Drag Queen Story Hour." For right now, it is important for the public to see the law that created the St. Mary's County Library. Therefore, please provide:
1) Copies of public records that comprise the statutory basis for St. Mary's County Library, including the powers or duties of its Board of Trustees and its Library Director. In other words, I seek a copy of the most recent statute or statutes that created St. Mary's County Library at its inception, including a copy of the most recent statute or statutes that lists the powers or duties of St. Mary's County Library Board of Trustees and St. Mary's County Library Director.
That is all I seek in this MPIA/FOIA request.
Here I wish to report that correspondence from the Library Director to me within the past two days has been unprofessional and he has even stated he will ignore further emails from me, "In the interim, I shall not respond to communications from you." My understanding is he is the designated FOIA officer and as such he may be acting illegally by threatening not to read my emails and perhaps even by not responding to this FOIA request for the law that instantiated the library. Please ensure that MPIA/FOIA is not subverted by his unprofessional actions. I may have to report his actions to the state's Attorney General depending on the circumstances related to him—I simply will not be bullied by his unprofessional behavior and he has no right to block the public from public documentation to which it is entitled under MPIA, and I am an investigative reporter working to expose documents material to the public's interest.
I already have grounds to report what appears to be his illegality to the AG. Micheal Blackwell is playing fast and loose with the law, thereby thwarting the legislative intent and even the plain language of MPIA. I want you to consider this so that you can exercise some sort of control over his unprofessional and likely unethical and illegal behavior, in both this FOIA response and in the response to my FOIA request of a few days ago.
Let me explain. My FOIA request of a few days ago requested 10 things. He responded that he could get me a certain subset in about two hours, but the rest would take a really long time to find and cost a large amount of money. He charged another reporter about $1,600.00 for a FOIA response, but I digress. “My time is valuable,” he scolded me. So I responded by dropping my requests for the material he said would take a long time to get and cost a lot of money, including even the request for records about whether the drag queen was given a background check and what were the results. Basically, Blackwell’s bullying ballestra worked to hide records from the public, even after they were requested by an investigative reporter.
With the dropping of the longer requests I only kept the ones he said he could get in two hours: “Since any communications on points 1 – 5, exclusive of #3 as already discussed, would have been addressed to me or to an online system for reserving meeting rooms, or involve payments made to us, I can probably prepare responses to them in two hours.” So, after amending my initial FOIA request to just what he said he could get in probably two hours, I expected to get the response quickly so I could report to the public quickly. But it was not to be. Even though I had dropped the longer/costly requests to only those he said he could get in two hours, he decided instead to break the law and to make me wait 30 days for what he already said would take only two hours to get: “You will have my response to your request by 30 days, August 31st.” This is illegal. This violates MPIA. How do I know? I looked at the MPIA Manual published by the AG: http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/OpenGov%20Documents/PIA_manual_printable.pdf Quoting, “C. Time for Response; Under GP § 4-203(b)(1), if a custodian determines that a record is responsive to a request and open to inspection, the custodian must produce the record ‘immediately’ after receipt of the written request. An additional reasonable period ‘not to exceed 30 days’ is available only where the additional period of time is required to retrieve the records and assess their status under the PIA. A custodian should not, however, wait the full 30 days to allow or deny access to a record if that amount of time is not needed to respond.” Michael Blackwell stated he needed probably two hours of time to obtain the records, and he stated the records that would take probably two hours to get would be delivered in 30 days. “A custodian should not, however, wait the full 30 days to allow or deny access to a record if that amount of time is not needed to respond.” Michael Blackwell is already acting illegally. And it’s the people for whom the law was written who are suffering as a result, not me personally.
The library director's actions are so egregious I have written about them here: “Fulfilling FOIA Requests Is 'Disruptive,' Says Public Library Director” https://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2019/08/fulfilling-foia-requests-is-disruptive.html
This present document request seeking the law that created the library is of extreme interest to the public. Why? So the public may learn what is and what is not allowed by law in its public library. You see, there is a question whether the public library is being responsive to the public or to the American Library Association, an organization based in Chicago, IL, that has made “social justice” its top goal, specifically setting aside literacy. If the library trustees were responsive to the public, they would follow the law. If they are responsive to the ALA, they would jettison or simply ignore the law, as it appears they may be doing right now.
You see, libraries are usually created statutorily for the use and benefit of the public. You cannot have just anything at all in public library, it has to be for the use and benefit of the public or it has to be proper. Just because there’s a First Amendment right to something does mean the library must allow it. There’s a First Amendment right to Internet p-rn-graphy, for example, but that right does not extend to public libraries. ALA lost big on this case, United States v. American Library Association, 539 US 194 (2003): http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/539/194.html Here are quotes from the SCOTUS case, “Public libraries pursue the worthy missions of facilitating learning and cultural enrichment.” “Although they seek to provide a wide array of information, their goal has never been to provide ‘universal coverage.’ …. Instead, public libraries seek to provide materials ‘that would be of the greatest direct benefit or interest to the community. …. To this end, libraries collect only those materials deemed to have ‘requisite and appropriate quality.’”
Facilitating learning. Cultural enrichment. Direct benefit. Requisite and appropriate quality. These are the concepts that make a library. This are embodied in the laws that instantiate libraries. P-rn-graphy is not included in that, so it may be legally blocked from libraries. Well the same goes for so-called “Drag Queen Story Hour.” It’s a cute name and there are rainbows and butterflies and happy songs and silly dances, but studies are showing that inducing gender confusion in children may cause harm. We all know this but are bullied into not saying this publicly. And ALA is using that squeamishness to push into public libraries something that is just as harmful to communities as is Internet p-rn-graphy—indeed even St. Mary’s County Library’s own children’s librarian Tess Goldwasser works with ALA to “sneakily” push ALA agenda on children. Sure, we all have a First Amendment right to such material, but in a public library, such material may be legally excluded despite the First Amendment.
And even if parents say they what their children to be exposed to “Drag Queen Story Hour,” that still does not give the library the right to subvert the law to make that happen in a library. If parents want that, go to a bookstore or other private business like Whole Foods or even a public park to see that, but something harmful is simply illegal in libraries, gender confusion is harmful for children, and “Drag Queen Story Hour” is specifically about gender confusion—and not literacy, by the way. So to make a determination of what is and what is not legal in St. Mary’s County Library, one must look at least to the statute that created the library. That is what I am seeking in this MPIA/FOIA request. That is why this request is so important to the public.
By the way, my request is for the law that instantiated St. Mary’s County Library, not for general laws such as § 23-405(f) “Each board of trustees may: … (6) Do anything else necessary for the proper control and development of the library.” That general law is significant too, but so is the specific law that instantiated St. Mary’s County Library. Notice the general law requires library trustees to do things for the “proper control and development of the library.” Introducing children to gender confusion, among other concerns about “Drag Queen Story Hour” such as its use for virtue signaling without even the slightest concern about the LGBT community, is not “proper” in a public library, and Maryland law specifically requires “proper control and development of the library.” Why is that word “proper” even there if it doesn’t mean what it says? But let’s also see the law that created the library in the first place, let alone what the US Supreme Court said.
It is especially important for the public to know the law since the bullying tactics are mounting up to force the County Commissioners to allow the library trustees to do what ALA wants instead of doing what the law says:
In a July 19 Facebook post, MD House Delegate Brian Crosby says: “The fact is that in this situation, our commissioners are playing politics with our library. …. Second, this is really about denying the constitutional rights to free assembly and free speech. …. These commissioners are circuitously denying people their first amendment rights. …. Lastly, I know many of you are curious about an ACLU and AG lawsuit. I am aware and am in contact with several legal offices. I’m not sure where they will go with this, but I can assure you that restricting constitutional rights because of a personal disagreement isn’t a game, and I’d proffer returning the $2,500 penalty instead of using taxpayer dollars to fund a legal defense.” https://www.facebook.com/bc4md/photos/a.1911753509073805/2300404876875331/
In a July 25 report, “County Attorney David Weiskopf confirmed Tuesday that he would be speaking with officials from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office this week about the county’s dealing with the library system. …. ‘Our office will be having a conversation this week… to get the details of the event and the transfer of funds,’ Coombs said. ‘We are just having a conversation at this point.’” https://countytimes.somd.com/archive/2019/07-jul/2019-07-25.pdf
In a July 30 report, “Yesterday, American Atheists, Southern Maryland Area Secular Humanists (SMASH), PFLAG National, and PFLAG’s Leonardtown chapter sent a letter to the commission warning that the organizations ‘are prepared to seek judicial remedies for [the] violation of their rights.’” https://www.atheists.org/2019/07/drag-queen-story-hour-maryland/
These are all bullying tactics meant to force a decision fast, without anyone taking the time to think and to look at the law. This MPIA/FOIA request is part of an effort to get to that law. The County government may not control what a library does when it acts within the law that created it (§ 23-401(a): “The governing body of each county may establish … a county public library system free from political influence.”), but when library trustees step outside the law, and it is quite possible they may have by allowing harmful material—and it doesn’t matter whether that was in the library itself or in one of the library’s public meeting rooms, whether or not the room was rented—then the County Commissioners have the right and the duty to force the library trustees to act within the law. That minor $2,439.38 security fee shifting from the library may be the County Commissioners acting quite legally to ensure the library trustees comply with the law, and indeed, that may have been the most efficient, least obtrusive way to go about requiring the library to act within the law, both the state law and the law I am seeking with this MPIA/FOIA request.
So let’s look at the law. Certainly that can be obtained and returned to me within a day, right? It’s the library’s founding document, after all. Michael Blackwell will not be blocking my receipt of that law for 30 days, right?
By the way, has anyone noticed what the library’s public meeting room policy says in bold type, and it’s the only text in bold type? “Any use of the room which disturbs library customers or operations is prohibited.” Besides the law, are the library’s own policies being ignored as well? That could be a subject of investigation for a future FOIA request. https://www.stmalib.org/about-us/library-policies/meeting-room-policy/
Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.
SafeLibraries® brand library educational services
641 Shunpike Rd #123
Chatham, NJ 07928
NOTE ADDED 6 AUGUST 2019:
The library replied to my second FOIA request, basically saying go fish, and I responded to that, basically saying they are not complying with the law. Both are below. Don't be bullied! Notice they leave out the FOIA officer Blackwell who threatened to stop corresponding with me, so I added him back since he's the FOIA officer.
Response From Library Board of Trustees:
FOIA Request - St. Mary's County Library - #02
Mon, Aug 5, 2019 at 11:00 AM
To: Safe Libraries
St. Mary’s County Library, with the duties of its Trustees and Director, was established under the “Laws of Maryland Relating to Public Libraries.” We continue to operate under them. They are a matter of public record and easily located online. Please find them through a web search.
The Trustees of St. Mary’s County
Response From Me To Library's Response:
FOIA Request - St. Mary's County Library - #02
From: Safe Libraries
Mon, Aug 5, 2019 at 10:56 PM
, info , Michael Blackwell
Thank you for responding quickly, however, the response is not substantive. So I still await a substantive response.
I did not request a citation of what law applies, especially since I cited and quoted that law in my request. FOIA requests may only seek documents, not answers to questions. I received only answers to a question I did not ask.
I requested a document. Look again at what I requested, “Copies of public records that comprise the statutory basis for St. Mary's County Library, including the powers or duties of its Board of Trustees and its Library Director. In other words, I seek a copy of the most recent statute or statutes that created St. Mary's County Library at its inception, including a copy of the most recent statute or statutes that lists the powers or duties of St. Mary's County Library Board of Trustees and St. Mary's County Library Director.”
I did not ask for the laws of libraries in Maryland state generally. I asked for the legislation or the like that was passed into law that specifically instantiated SMCL: “I seek a copy of the most recent statute or statutes that created St. Mary's County Library at its inception.” That is the document I seek. I even added the “in other words” section to be clear I was asking for the law/document that instantiated SMCL.
Please provide a copy of that document and any others related to my original document request, and the original filing date stands since the response so far has been nonsubstantive.
And, "We continue to operate under them" is a conclusory statement still being investigated. We already know violating your state's FOIA law is becoming a pattern.
Lastly, public laws are not public records. So, "They are a matter of public record and easily located online" is false and merely amounts to yet another in what's becoming a string of delaying tactics to avoid making public records public.
To forestall your next delaying tactic, yes, I asked for the law, but I don't want a citation to the law. I want the actual document that instantiated SMCL. It may contains signatures, vote counts, official seals, who knows. We shall see, yes?
NOTE ADDED 8 AUGUST 2019:
Yesterday I received a substantive response to this "FOIA Request - St. Mary's County Library - #02" and I republish it below. It proves Drag Queen Story Hour in the St. Mary's County Library, which presents harmful gender theory, is ultra vires, thus all agreements with the organizers of Drag Queen Story Time in St. Mary's County Library are void ab initio, and the Commissioners of St. Mary's County have the right and duty to stop the library from presenting harmful material in violation of the law. Drag Queen Story Time may proceed outside the library grounds and not otherwise presented by the library, but may not occur inside the library.
Why? Look at the law that created the library, freshly uncovered in this FOIA response. Look at the 1 March 1948 Certificate of Incorporation of the St. Mary's Memorial Library Association, page 1 of the "within instrument," wherein the very first description of the library—the first because it is so important and is the key to the whole library—is that the library must "benefit" the people: "1. To conduct a library for the benefit of the people on a strictly non-profit basis." This library may not do things that are harmful to the people. It may only "conduct a library for the benefit of the people." Drag Queen Story Hour is harmful to the people in a number of different ways, but that's not the subject of this publication.
Suffice it to say harmful activities are not allowed in the library under the law, specifically the Certificate of Incorporation of the St. Mary's Memorial Library Association, the library board is not empowered to act outside the law, and the local government has the right and duty to force compliance with the law. For example, the Commissioners security fee shifting move regarding police security for the Drag Queen Story Hour is, in itself, legal as the action of the government to force compliance with the law.
Read the law that created your library for yourselves and think, think for yourselves, don't be bullied by the library representatives misleading you about the law or the First Amendment or about me as a reporter of what I uncovered. You in St. Mary's County have an existing law that requires your library to be for the benefit of the people, DQSH harms the people, so it has no legal basis in your library, and your government has the right and duty to force compliance with the law. It's that simple. Take your own law, read it, and apply it!
Here is the library's response to me today, with the attachments linked and renamed by my for clarity reasons:
Substantive Response from Library Board of Trustees
RE: FOIA Request - St. Mary's County Library - #02
Dear Mr. Kleinman,
I have asked our director, Michael Blackwell, to provide for me the documents you have requested. He is “responsible for the day-to-day administration and operations of the Library,” and your request is in his purview.
I provide for you three documents of possible relevance. The first two, dating from 1948, are about the incorporation of the library. They make no mention of the roles of Trustees and Director, but we include them for your consideration.
The library would have been established under the laws of Maryland at the time. We have no such documents from the state from that time, or any other time. You might wish to apply to the State of Maryland to see if any such incorporation documents exist, with statute, and if they mention the roles of Trustees and Director. Laws may have changed since 1948. We operate under current “Laws of Maryland Relating to Public Libraries,” of which you are aware.
We have one document that sets out the roles of Trustees and Director, and it is attached. It is derived from “Laws of Maryland Relating to Public Libraries,” to which you should refer for a full legal statement of those relations.
I, and our other Trustees, am aware of your statements of various legal interpretations and about “bullying tactics meant to force a decision fast, without anyone taking the time to think and to look at the law.” We cannot comment individually or as a board, or recommend action on your statements, without a meeting. Our next Trustees meeting is in September. We may consider your points then.
All future requests for documents should go directly to Mr. Blackwell, whom we empower to conduct daily library operations and to whom we will refer all requests for action. Our board cannot conduct public business without meeting, and I do so now individually only reluctantly in response to this specific request since providing documents does not involve board discussion or a need to vote and since Mr. Blackwell provides them as part of his duties. Your email to us has included several legal interpretations from you. Because of this, any email to us or to Mr. Blackwell should also include our attorney, Joshua Brewster, who is copied on this email.
Carolyn Guy, President, Board of Library Trustees for the St. Mary’s County Library
- 2019 04 16 - Bylaws of the Board of Library Trustees St Marys County.pdf 244K
- 1948 03 01 - Certificate of Incorp of the St Marys Memorial Library Assn.pdf 2M
- 1948 01 - Articles of Incorp of the St Marys Memorial Library Assn Inc.pdf 257K
Top graphic credit—coincidentally another county government that stopped another drag queen story hour in a library.
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