Pike County Times
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Meeting of the J. Joel Edwards Public Library Board of Trustees - January 10, 2019
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - Meeting called to order at 4:30 p.m. Secretary Susan Goodwin, Chairman Audrey Lanier, Member Joy Walker, Treasurer Curtis Ward, Library Manager Rosemary Bunn, Flint River Regional Library System Representative (FRRLS) Natalie Marshall, Vice Chairman Gillian Appleton, Member Rhonda Morgan, Member Patty Talley, and Member Tina Venus were in attendance.

[Note from the Editor: Before I begin covering this meeting, a little bit of history is needed. I have been attending meetings in Pike County for almost 20 years and attended meetings in Upson County for almost 4 years before that so I've seen a whole lot. Pike County Times actually came into being because I was extremely unhappy with the actions of the Pike County Commission 12 years ago. And tonight was not good. The Pike County Commission has also been sued more than once for some of the very same things that I saw in this meeting tonight. There are rules for Open Meetings and Bylaws of this Board of Trustees that need to be followed. All of them. I was under the impression from the meeting that the Chair was asked to put items on the agenda before the meeting and it wasn't done. Nor was the agenda posted as is required. If we are going to hear about rules being followed, how about we follow ALL of the rules and not just the rules that favor what some want to do. From here on out, everything in blue are my thoughts, opinions, and pulling info from state law and the Library Board Bylaws as noted.]

Motion to move to the Executive Session for Library Board members at the beginning of the meeting after approval of the December meeting minutes and invite County Manager Bobby Bickley to attend the Executive Session. [Note from the Editor: Everyone who was not on the Library Board was asked to leave the meeting including FRRLS Representative Natalie Marshall. Why the regional rep was asked to leave rather than asking for her input is beyond me. Library Manager Rosemary Bunn and I left the meeting as well.]

Motion to approve the December minutes. Approved.

4:35 p.m. into Executive Session

After coming out of Executive Session, a motion was made to ask the county to give the responsibilities for the Library Board of Trustees and the county pertaining to the Library and the Library County Manager in written memo form. It was noted that this memo could be general with the specifics to be determined at a later date. This received a 2nd and was approved. [Note from the Editor: The Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees asked a question about the legality of this Executive Session toward the end of the meeting. Asking for a memo from the county is a good thing, but I'm not sure why that couldn't have been discussed in an open meeting except to maybe avoid having the reporter/civil activist in the room write about it. Another item to note is that the agenda was passed out by the Chair at the meeting (it was a simple copy and paste from December because it said to approve "November's minutes"), but it was not posted on the board or window of the library so I did not know what was on the agenda ahead of time as I do with most meetings that occur in the cities and the county. This matters because there were questions about the purpose of the Executive Session at the very end of the meeting.]

Chairman Audrey Lanier asked board members how they wished for this to proceed with asking the county for this information. Member Patty Talley said that she would appreciate Secretary Susan Goodwin doing a cut and paste of that motion and sending it to the Chair so the Chair can send an email to the County Manager. Chairman Lanier advised that she would do that. [Note from the Editor: I like seeing the Chair work with the other board members like this, but the meeting didn't stay like this to the end.]

Flint River Regional Library System Representative Report

FRRLS Natalie Marshall advised that February 13 is Georgia Library Legislative Day. Meet at the library to meet at the Capitol to discuss funding, etc.

Library Manager’s Report

Library Manager Rosemary Bunn included a quarterly report so members could examine the numbers for the library. Regional meeting is next Monday. She said that our onsite special event programs like Polar Express Pajama Party and Santa events broke all previous attendance records, and she attributed this to the Library being in the school system. She is hoping that this will happen with Summer Reading too.

She advised that In-Service training was held this week. Summer Reading was a big topic there where they are already planning for the summer’s activities. Teen, preschool, toddler, craft, 6-12 and family programs will be held. The calendar is filling up and she is looking forward to it. Chairman Audrey Lanier advised that the Board has been involved traditionally in the In-Service Training and that some of the board members were surprised by the training. Rosemary said that she called about this (looking at County Manager Bobby Bickley) and that she is caught in between the Library Board and the county on this. Chairman Lanier said that wanted her to know that the Board "still wants to support her and be involved in this in the future." Library Manager Bunn acknowledged that involving the Library Board wouldn’t be a problem in the future. She ended by saying that local, regional, and state policies that must be followed were also discussed so everyone works the same at the front desk. [Note from the Editor: I wasn't able to confirm that Rosemary called the County Manager to obtain permission, but that is my impression. Another issue for readers to note is that the Library Board, Library Manager, and FRRLS representative have been meeting with the county about this changeover and the emails between the Library Board and County Manager John Hanson as well as the past minutes of this Board advise that there was supposed to be a written memorandum of understanding to lay out who does what. If this had been addressed before the Library Board voted to allow the county to do its payroll, the past couple of months might not have been this ugly. Click here to read that indepth article.

UPDATED 2.23.19: I have received an Open Records Requested document that shows that Library Manager Rosemary Bunn asked County Manager Bobby Bickley for permission to close the library in order to conduct this training.]

Library Manager Bunn also met with CM Bickley in the past week about transition of the finances to Smart Fusion. She said that we are going to finish this year as it is so she can be trained in Smart Fusion, and they can prepare for the transition. The county is only doing the payroll so we can’t do everything at this time. [Note from the Editor: Remember this statement because more discussion comes up later.] She said that hopefully it will be a smooth transition on July 1, 2019.

Treasurer Curtis Ward and Library Board Manager Rosemary Bunn have been looking over the bank account. Because of the turnover in the past year, we were short staffed in July and August. Last year at about the same time, we were short staffed and did not hire immediately because Barnesville was closed and they helped cover during this time. There was talk about reallocating funds from that time. Library Manager Bunn said that she had some ideas that she will put together for the board next month. That will also be the time to look at the new budget as it translates into the county’s chart of accounts.

Chairman Audrey Lanier asked about reallocating and the difference between money that is in the library board’s checking account and savings account. Money in savings is where private donations go. Discussion that this is county money, it needs to be reallocated, but where? The county now pays employee paychecks so things are different now than they were then so we won’t have this situation again.

CM Bickley said that payroll cannot be reallocated but budget line items can be reallocated as long as it is within overall budget constraints. Chairman Lanier said that we will have to seek guidance on this. Further discussion. Donations are not in the checking account so this is totally separate. Donations go into the savings account and they are restricted funds that must be used specifically for what they were designated for. Chairman Lanier said that she would advise that nothing is moved or reallocated.

Member Rhonda Morgan made a motion that the board direct the Library Manager and the Treasurer not to reallocate any funds at this time and wait until the matter of leftover funds is researched and the amount of specific funds determined. Chairman Lanier 2nd. Motion passed with two opposed.

[Note from the Editor: According to the June 2018 minutes of this Library Board, Chairman Audrey Lanier told the Board that she met with the county payroll representative and that "...the county will send any remaining payroll funds (not used) back to the library at the end of each fiscal year, pending and Inter-Governmental agreement." It's no wonder that there is confusion in the meeting. The county needs to clarify this in writing.]

Vice Chairman Gillian Appleton then asked how to expedite this process and suggested that Curtis and Rosemary meet and bring that information back to the Board next month. Chairman Lanier said that before final amounts go outside of the Board to CM Bickley and County Attorney Rob Morton, the Board needs to be apprised of what is going on. [Note from the Editor: This was a very good suggestion because nothing should be brought to the county by individual board members unless it has been discussed and approved by the entire board. This includes the chairman because Article IV Section 9 says: “All decisions of the Board are made by the Board as a collective body. No individual member may make decisions or act for the Board unless specifically authorized to do so by a vote of the membership of the Board.” No individual member... Keep that in mind for later.]

Motion that Treasurer Ward and Library Manager Bunn review the accounting, examine the line items, and report their findings at the next meeting. Approved unanimously.

[Note from the Editor added here on 2.25.19: I caught the gravity of what was being discussed, but I did not have a tape recorder with me to go back and listen to this so I missed Chair Audrey Lanier's "I want to go on the record and say..." comment that her confidence is low in the financials being presented to the Board actually being correct. This became evident in the next meeting and through an email that was sent from the Treasurer to all Board members prior to the meeting. I have looked at the financials and asked questions about the safeguards put in place to make a correct accounting of this public money. The regional library has a person who looks over each expenditure from our local library as well as Rosemary and Curtis being accountability measures on the local level. There are other measures too including an auditor who goes over the library info with a fine toothed comb each year. I knew that Audrey was grandstanding so it didn't bother me, but that is the equivalent of saying that public money was being mishandled and that SHOULD have caught my attention because it offended several of the Board members as well as the Library Manager and the Board Treasurer. I should have written that down in my original write up and apologize that I did not. I sincerely hope that members--and especially the Chair--are more careful with their words when they speak from here on out because that was a serious allegation that was proved to be incorrect in the next meeting.]

A Taste of Two County is presenting the Big Band Dance that is happening at the end of this month. Friends of the Library needs help with this. Meeting on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the J. Joel Edwards Library. The tickets are $20 per person and $10 for students. If people will help with set up and clean up, he will comp their tickets. This benefits our library only this year. [Note from the Editor: Contact the J. Joel Edwards Library if you would like to help with this. Please tell them that you saw it on Pike County Times.]

She also said that she spoke with County Clerk Jo Ann Wrye and asked her about how she took minutes for her meetings and learned that she uses a voice recorder with noise reduction to help with her notes. She asked if the Board like her to purchase one to help make taking the minutes easier? Secretary Susan Goodwin said that it would probably help. Consensus for Library Manager Bunn to purchase a voice recorder recorder. Motion that Rosemary purchase a recorder that is not to exceed $100. Approved unanimously. [Note from the Editor: I think it would be a really good idea for the library to obtain and keep copies of these meetings so that the County Manager can listen to the meetings if there are complaints. The recording of the meeting would either confirm the complaint or clear the person being complained about.]

Treasurer Ward said that the accounts were reconciled and the Board looked over what was presented. Discussion about the checking account and the reconciliation statement. Treasurer Ward answered some questions, but there were more questions than could be answered with specifics about lining up the monthly amounts with year to date amounts. Curtis will do some digging on the funds for the Board so he can explain the reconciliation statement next month. It was stressed that the numbers match the accounts and the Library Board just had a clean audit, but members want to understand exactly what they are looking at. [Note from the Editor: I applaud the Board for this. I look over county info on a regular basis, and it is difficult for me because numbers are not my thing.]

The county will take over our bill paying beginning on July 1. Chairman Lanier said that she would like to move on this quicker than July 1. [Note from the Editor: Remember back to that discussion from Library Manager Bunn above where the county is working with her on transferring everything to Smart Fusion on July 1, 2019. The county will take over paying all of the bills at that time if I understand things correctly.] Member Joy Walker said that county has already recommended staying with what we are doing now. Chairman Lanier clarified that she was not making a motion, but she would feel better if we made a change quicker. Vice Chairman Appleton said that in order to keep everything clean audit-wise, it would be better to leave things as they are and not change things midstream. Question about how donations would work after everything is turned over to the county. The Library Manager advised that CM Bickley is going to work with the library to advise how to figure out specifics.

Old Business

Second revision of constitution and bylaws. Chairman Lanier pointed out a few things to be sure that the Board is in agreement, and they were. Treasurer Ward had to leave the meeting at 6:03 p.m.

Member Joy Walker asked to add the roles and responsibilities for Board members to the agenda. This will be addressed later. The Board name was changed from Pike County Library Board to the J. Joel Edwards Public Library Board of Trustees.

Chairman Lanier would like to share this draft copy with the commissioners and county manager after the final changes. She will email a copy to the entire board. Motion by Rhonda. 2nd given. Member Joy Walker pointed out that in section 9, all decisions are made as a collective body and no one can act for the board on their own. She stated that members of the board have been talking to the county manager as well as people from the state library and she said that she thought that was inappropriate. Chairman Lanier said that this will be another discussion item and they could do that later. Clarified that this will be presented as a draft. Approved unanimously.

Short discussion on Board of Trustees Bank Accounts. If they are going to be closed anyway, they probably don’t need to be changed from the name on them now to match the J. Joel Edwards Public Library Board of Trustees.

New Business

Member Joy Walker asked again about adding an item to the agenda about responsibilities for board members. Vice Chairman Appleton wanted to know her duties as Vice Chair. Chairman Lanier said that she would not allow what happened after the last meeting to be added to the agenda. Discussion that emails have been considered official business for as long as Vice Chairman Appleton has been on the Board. She asked again for discussion on this. Chairman Lanier said that she is not opposed to people staying and chatting after the meeting, but she was not willing to put this discussion the agenda for this meeting.

[Note from the Editor: “Chatting” after a meeting isn’t part of the recorded minutes so it’s like it didn’t happen. Much like chat after the December meeting which brought about the resignation of the Chairman which was given verbally and then rescinded by email. This resignation brought about the request for the special called meeting by the Vice Chair and board member Member Joy Walker. These requests were both in writing and the request from the Vice Chair was made because she was acting as the Chairman upon the verbal resignation of the Chair per Article V which says that the Vice Chairman “Shall preside in the absence of the Chairman.” You can read about this by clicking here. The Chair "denied" the special called meeting (which was properly posted at the library and through the Pike Journal Reporter) and then advised the Pike Journal Reporter as follows: "Please note that any requests to publish notices concerning meetings or announcements for the J. Joel Edwards Library Board of Trustees shall only be received from the Chairman of the Board, Audrey Lanier, or the Secretary of the Board, Susan Goodwin." But is that what the Bylaws say?

Article VI Section 3 of the Library Bylaws says: “Special meetings may be called by the Chairman or upon the written request of two Board members, for the transaction of the business stated in the call for the special meeting. For any meeting other than a regularly scheduled meeting, written or oral notice shall be given at least 24 hours in advance to the county’s legal organ and also be posted at the regular meeting site (O.C.G.A.50-14-2(d)(2). When special circumstances occur and are declared by the board, the board may hold a meeting with less than 24 hours’ notice. Reasonable notice of this meeting and subjects expected to be considered must be posted (O.C.G.A.50-14-2(d) (3).”]

Member Joy Walker asked to amend the agenda to discuss the applicant for the board. Motion to amend the agenda. 2nd given. Board vacancy discussion.

Behavior of board members was added as well per Member Walker’s request. Member Tina Venus said that some of this stuff happened after the board meeting and by email and that it was extremely confusing. She said that it is difficult to discuss and give an opinion without knowing everything. [Note from the Editor: It was confusing for me too which is why I wrote out a chronological account of the events that you can read by clicking here.]

Motion amended to include both things. 2nd. Approved.

Application to join the Board

In the past, they usually pick who they would like to come to an interview but there is only one application this time. Member Joy Walker said that he is very well qualified, and she thinks that they should send a recommendation to the Board to accept this application. CM Bickley said that he had met him and praised him as an applicant. Motion to send a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners to appoint this Anthony Vinson to the Library Board of Trustees. 2nd. Approved unanimously.

[Note from the Editor: Somewhere in here, County Manager Bobby Bickley had to leave to attend another meeting. And things started going sideways...]

Behavior of members. Member Joy Walker said that it has come to her attention that some members have gone to the county manager and county attorney as well as people in the state about the library. The Bylaws state that these things should not be done without knowledge of the library board members. She stated that if we want to go outside of the library board to do anything, the library board should know about it beforehand. Member Walker noted that she even asked approval of the Board to ask for money for the library from people in the community.

[Note from the Editor: Article IV Section 9 of the Library Bylaws says: “All decisions of the Board are made by the Board as a collective body. No individual member may make decisions or act for the Board unless specifically authorized to do so by a vote of the membership of the Board.”]

It was noted that no individual members may make decisions or act outside of the board. Member Rhonda Morgan emphasized the word “decisions” and said that the Chairman has to get facts and information for the Board. She said that the Chair can obtain information for the Board. Joy said that the Chair is a board member and is not special. Audrey asked if the wording needed to be discussed in the Bylaws and if not, this should be a reminder to for board members not to make decisions or act for the board. Audrey and Rhonda both said that they don’t know of any instances that this had happened.

Joy said that the Chair should be more careful when she speaks to the county manager or the county attorney. Audrey stressed the words "making decisions" and "acting for the board" and said that people should be careful. Joy said that if the Chair is going to talk to the county manager or the county attorney, the Board should be advised first. She also said that in every board she has ever been on that the Chair did not make motions. Audrey said that is another matter that can be discussed next. Rhonda said that according to Robert’s Rules of Order, this is allowed. Audrey said that she was very careful today not to make any motions. She thanked Joy for bringing this up. [Note from the Editor: I have a problem with the Board Chairman making the agenda and making motions too. I was glad that Audrey did not continue that behavior from the past more than six months of minutes that I requested by email. It is allowed in Roberts’s Rules of Order for a small board—because I looked—but it smells bad.]

Chairman Lanier said that this concluded all items on the agenda. The Executive Session document has to be signed and Library Manager Bunn had a document for them.

Vice Chairman Gillian Appleton asked if the Executive Session fell under the allowed items for Executive Session. Chairman Audrey Lanier said that it was under Personnel Issues. Gillian said that it wasn’t clear and wondered if this was under the guidelines of Executive Session. She said that we need to be careful in the future on this. She wants future motions to include the purpose of the Executive Session. Member Joy Walker said that it should have been discussed openly. Audrey said that an Executive Session can be called for two reasons: Personnel or Litigation. [Note from the Editor: Actually there are three reasons that an Executive Session could be called. From the Library Bylaws Article VI Section 6: “The Board may enter into a closed session with legal counsel for the discussion of proposed or pending litigation; deliberation on acquisition or sale of real property; or hearings or discussions of personnel matters. If the board enters into session, no formal action will be taken. All decisions must be formally adopted in an open board meeting to be legally binding.”]

Gillian asked again for her item to be added to the agenda to discuss that when two board members called for a meeting, and the Chair denied it. Gillian reiterated that it needed to be discussed. Her request was denied. Rhonda said that under Robert’s Rules of Order, a motion and a 2nd was needed before something can be discussed.

Member Morgan quickly made a motion to adjourn and when no second was made, Chairman Lanier made the second 2nd. Member Patty Talley, Member Rhonda Morgan, Secretary Susan Goodwin and Chairman Audrey Lanier all voted to adjourn.

Adjourned at 6:34 p.m.

[Note from the Editor: Vice Chairman Appleton left as soon as the meeting was over and she was angry. Justifiably so from what I saw. Refusing to allow a discussion of a lawfully called meeting according to the Library Bylaws as well as discussing what the Vice Chair's duties are is indefensible as far as I’m concerned. In fact, Board members should be able to send their agenda requests to the Chair ahead of time and those items should be easily added to the agenda without worries of being denied. That Board is about more than just the Chair and she needs to work together with the entire group of Board members.

I was mad enough when I left the meeting right after her that I told the Chairman that the agenda should be posted ahead of time according to the Bylaws. And let me be clear this doesn’t mean that the same basic agenda can go up and things can just be added as needed at each meeting because the Bylaws state that “…Reasonable notice of this meeting and subjects expected to be considered must be posted”. That means that ANYTHING that is reasonably expected to be on the agenda should be advertised to the public AHEAD OF TIME because constantly amending the agenda to place items on it during the meeting looks like things are being hidden from the public. Of course, I was around when the Pike County Commission had to deal with this problem so I’ve seen this song and dance before. Did I mention that the Pike County Board of Commissioners lost more than one lawsuit because of some of the same things that I saw in this meeting tonight?

Furthermore, Article VI Section 2 says: “All meetings of the board or its committees must be open to the public and conform to the specifications of the Open Meetings Law (O.C.G.A.50-14-1) Notice of all regular meetings must be made available to the public at least one week in advance by placing a notice at the meeting site. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. 50-14-1(e) (1), the agenda shall be available upon request and shall be posted at the meeting site, as far in advance of the meeting as reasonably possible, but shall not be required to be available more than two weeks prior to the meeting and shall be posted, at a minimum, at some time during the two-week period immediately prior to the meeting.” If I'm gonna have to listen to the Robert's Rules of Order ad nauseum, the Library Bylaws need to be followed too.

To review the Open Meetings Law that is clearly stated to be followed in Article VI Section 2 of the Library Bylaws, click here. To review Robert’s Rules of Order as noted in the Library’s Bylaws, click here.

I also didn’t like the way that the Vice Chair was treated by Chair when she asked to add an item to the agenda. “Chatting after a meeting” is not discussing a topic on the record so it is included as part of the minutes. Two members called for a meeting in writing, and the meeting was denied by the Chair. This is contrary to the Bylaws that the Board went over tonight and approved as a draft to go to the county manager and commissioners. Refusing to allow the matter to be discussed doesn’t make it any less wrong. I don’t like what I’m seeing in these meetings, and the Chair needs to be aware of--and abide by--all of the rules. Click here to read this article.

In closing, I feel like I’ve stepped back into the County Commission meetings that brought my newspaper into being in 2006 where I was constantly writing in blue because something always seemed to be going on that was either against the rules or some of the members weren’t acting to avoid the appearance impropriety. I don’t like what I’m seeing at these meetings and will continue to attend and report to the public until someone in the county puts a stop to questionable and outright wrong behavior.]

To read about the December 13, 2019 meeting, click here.

To read about the November 8, 2018 meeting, click here.

Updated 2.23.19