The Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) held a meeting on Thursday, and the Athens-Limestone County library board was a key issue of contention. The board was accused of providing inaccurate documents to the APLS and not abiding by the ones submitted.

Accusations were made that the board has continued to provide its original 2001 document showing it is a joint venture between the city and county and that the county has two board appointments.

The City of Athens and the library board have continuously told the public and 1819 News that the policy, which said the county was supposed to have two appointments, was inaccurate. 1819 News has confirmed, however, that the documentation provided to APLS was their official policy.

This accusation was proven true, as only the documentation mentioned was provided in an open records request. However, during the meeting, APLS director Dr. Nancy Pack claimed that Athens had filed a document in 2018 stating that the city council would make all the appointments.

Pack said, "The documents that were requested by Elizabeth Stewart are correct, but when, however, a library is established. The [Probate] Judge or two people establishing the library determine how they will appoint the board."

"I went back in our documentation; in September 2018, we received a document signed that said that the city of Limestone [Athens] would be making all the appointments," she added.

However, according to the Athens city attorney, the City of Athens contends that in 2009, the city council re-established a five-member municipal library board appointed by the city council and that the "Public Library Authority of the City of Athens, Limestone County, Alabama" was dissolved on January 12, 2010.

This is where the main issues began during the meeting on Thursday. As of publishing, 1819 News has received no documentation that Limestone County gave up its board seats or that it also passed a resolution to affirm what the city claims. In contrast, the county commission passed a resolution in January that they wanted to adhere to the published policy and make their appointments.

SEE ALSO: Dysfunction at the Athens-Limestone County Library as board not following its policies

At this point, ALGOP chairman and APLS member John Wahl began to ask questions because this was his home county.

Wahl began, "There is a discrepancy between the city and county governments, and that's become pretty heated. I know the county commission in January passed a resolution asking for their proportional representation which are the original by-laws that are on file with the APLS, as well as their website. Two from the county and three from the city, right now all five are from the city and the county commission is upset about it."

"The city is taking the position that they passed something at some point that gave them full authority," he added. I am not sure how the city council had the authority to do that if it took away from the county—I am not sure on a legal basis—but there are definitely two sides that are in disagreement."

Wahl went on to ask if it would be appropriate for the attorney general to look into the board. Another member told Wahl that they felt it would be better for the city or the county to request that instead of APLS getting into the middle of a disagreement because they thought it was more of an interfamily dispute.

Wahl pushed back, saying, "That is when you need outside mediation and help." He added that he was hoping that over the past six months, the two groups would come to an agreement about the situation and work out a resolution.

He continued, "I do feel like we have a stake in this, though. If there are policies required in state code to be submitted to us and they're not operating in line with those and they're not a properly established board in the policy that is submitted to us."

Pack interrupted, saying, "We don't know if they're not properly, and they're going to fight over that."

Pack was referring to the position that the APLS should not get involved and that the city or county should ask for an AG opinion on the issue.

Referring to a previous comment in the meeting, Wahl asked Pack if every public library established in Alabama filed its records with the county probate office. Pack said there is an agreement on file with every library in Alabama—all 220 of them.

Wahl pressed her, "Do we have copies of those?" and Pack said, "We have copies of them, and they go back to the first establishment of the library."

He added, "Have you looked up Limestone County?" to which Pack said, "Yes, I did; I just mentioned that in 2018, we received one from the city and would be appointing all of the representation for that."

Wahl continued by asking if she was saying that in 2018, the Limestone Library was reconstituted.

Pack replied, "They said that they made a change that they were the Athens City Public Library, or I don't know, but the documentation is in our file, and I'm happy to get it for you."

"The only way you're gonna know is to go back through your city council and county commission minutes and really look and see what happened," she added.

At this point, another board member, obviously frustrated, began to speak and claimed the library had been presenting inaccurate documentation and had not abided by it. The member questioned out loud why the city could send over a document claiming the library as its own after more than a decade.

Wahl then requested that all documentation filed with APLS be provided to the board chronologically for them to review.

His motion for the City of Athens or Limestone County to request an opinion from the attorney general regarding the raised issues and board passed unanimously.

The Limestone County Commission has a meeting on Monday and will likely take up the issue for a vote to request an AG opinion.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email or on Twitter @BradleyCoxAL.

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