Callender woman asks supervisors for help with local library

Driscoll: board has no authority over city matters

A Callender woman requested that the Webster County Board of Supervisors reject the removal of a woman who was on the Callender Heritage Library Board of Trustees as part of an ongoing conflict between the library and city officials.

Bonnie Porter, a lifelong resident of Callender, spoke during the public comment section of the board’s weekly meeting.

She asked that the board not approve the removal of Laurel Newell, the county at-large member of the Callender Heritage Library Board.

“This is a seat that is included in the city bylaws and city ordinance of the library that is approved by the county Board of Supervisors,” Porter said of Newell. “She’s an integral member of the library board and her knowledge and persistance with these matters at hand have been seen as a threat to the City Council.”

According to Porter, Newell was removed from the library board at the last City Council meeting.

“I believe, and many others believe, that a representative from the county is very important, because the library not only serves people in the town of Callender and rural communities, but countywide as well,” Porter said. “They have fantastic programs there.”

The Callender library’s budget has been cut by $10,000 over the past few years, which has impacted the services.

“The library hours have been reduced, which makes the volunteers an even more integral part of the library system,” Porter said. “And Laurel, along with the other volunteers involved, have donated much of their time and many other personal expenses to improve the library.”

Webster County Attorney Darren Driscoll said he examined the Iowa Code, as well as the bylaws and ordinances from Callender, and he believes that the Board of Supervisors has no jurisdiction over decisions the city makes.

In fact, he said the city’s bylaws regarding library trustees actually contradict what’s said in the Iowa Code.

“It’s kind of a unique situation,” Driscoll said.

According to the city of Callender, five library trustees are on the board. Driscoll said the ordinance states that four are appointed by the City Council, while the fifth one is appointed by the supervisors. That fifth person has to live outside the city limits of Callender.

But the Iowa Code states that, on commissions such as the library board, all members must live within the city limits, which means, according to Driscoll, that no rural members should actually be serving on the library board.

“I’m not sure they have the authority to make a rural member, who is not a resident, a board member,” Driscoll told Porter.

He added that the Board of Supervisors should have no involvement in the local library board.

“There’s nothing in the ordinance or bylaws that talks about the county having any obligation to remove board members,” he said, adding that if it was a cooperative library between the county and city, it might be different, but that’s not the case.

“My opinion, advising the board, is this is solely an issue of city law,” Driscoll said. “The mayor is the only party who gets to make appointments.”

He also said he has spoken to the Callender city attorney to recommend that the city rewrite the ordinance so that it complies with the Iowa Code.