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Library Director resigns; first dissolution petition short, second petition submitted to Auditor

DAYTON–Library Director Todd Vandenbark has submitted his letter of resignation, Board Chair Jay Ball informed library trustees meeting June 26, and Ball later learned on June 28 that an initial petition to dissolve the rural library district did not have enough valid signatures.

During the board's June 26 meeting, trustees were unaware that the petition was short valid signatures.

A letter addressed to Ball was received from Auditor Will Hutchens on June 28. This was two days before the deadline to submit petitions and Hutchens determined the petition to dissolve the district was deficient in the required number of valid signatures. In response, the sponsor of the petition rallied by resubmitting the petition two days later with additional signatures. At press deadline, the status of the second petition isn't known.

Petition sponsor Jessica Ruffcorn learned last week the answer from the State Attorney General's office regarding who qualifies to sign and vote for the dissolution of a county rural library district. RCW 27.12.320 states only signatures from registered voters in unincorporated areas of the county are valid and eligible to vote on the issue. The City of Dayton later annexed into the district, so the question was whether registered voters who are city residents can sign and vote. The answer was that the law is clear that though annexation is permitted, the statute on dissolution remained unchanged. Therefore only 10% of the registered voters in unincorporated Columbia County can sign the petition and then vote on the measure which means 107 signatures were needed for the petition.

After reviewing 16 pages with 282 signatures, 181 were Dayton residents, nine were Starbuck residents and another 28 were disqualified, leaving 101 valid signatures from county residents which the auditor said does not meet the requirement to move forward. If the minimum signatures required had been met, the RCW states the petition would have to be presented to the Library Board of Trustees no later than 90 days before the election.

Two days later, on June 30, Ruffcorn resubmitted a new petition to the Auditor's Office with 16 pages of 186 signatures, 183 of which appeared to be county residents. "I believe that this second petition really makes a very loud statement about what the citizens of Columbia County want and expect, and what we will accept in our small rural town," Ruffcorn said. "God was not only with us, but He was guiding us and using us as his soldiers to defeat the evil that is coming for the kids in our community. The battle is not over. We have a long road ahead of us, but each person involved in this process so far has witnessed the strength we have, and we won't be giving up!"

The petition is a public response to the lack of action to move sexually explicit books from the sections for minors. At last count, the library contains 167 books that contain graphic sex involving minors, books written for minors about gender and sex education, or books about sexuality for early readers.

The other issue is the inflated budget of the library totaling over $700,000 of which $472,000 comes from the County tax levy. Each year, they take the allowed 1% increase and are now up to nearly 46 cents of the 50 cents maximum per $1000 assessed property value from the regular taxing levy totaling $5.90/1000. Any money they do not take is available to other taxing districts below them including the Fire and EMS Districts, as well as a pool district if the ballot measure passes.

Vandenbark will continue performing his contracted duties until mid-July, Ball indicated. "Our director has turned in his resignation last week...He's going to continue through the middle of July doing his job," he said. Vandenbark declined to comment on details of his career future, but indicated his next move is into a higher paying position.

Trustees appointed current staff member Ellen Brigham as the Interim Director until which time they hire permanently. The vote was three to two with Beleny and Rust dissenting. Brigham holds a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Washington.

In other regular business, Vandenbark addressed the $2,000 March salary increase by pointing out there were additional workdays. He indicated the same increase will happen again in June payroll.

Tthe library has had a strong response from all ages to the Summer Reading Program that kicked off on June 6 with over 125 registered, he reported. June was Pride Month which was featured around the library with various displays containing old and new books to check out.

Trustees Beleny and Rust reported that the carpet company stated the Delany Room carpets were in good condition, that repair and cleaning would be a fraction of the cost of replacement. Ball suggested they consider repair and cleaning. The downstairs carpet needs will appear on the July agenda.

Previously, the Board gave the revised Laptop and Tablet Lending Policy and the Employee Substance Abuse Policy to their attorney to review, and he made some edits.

The Board was not given time to review the changes before the meeting so they will be considered for approval in July.

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