RFPL TRUSTEES POLICY COMMITTEE MEETING NOVEMBER 13, 2014
Present: Doreen Aldrich, Carol Blackwood & Carolyn Frisa; Absent: L. Raymond Massucco
Members of the Public: Hope Brissette, Joel Love & Jan Mitchell-Love; Library: Anne Dempsey and Celina Houlne
Call to Order: The Policy Committee Meeting was called to order at 6:15 p.m.Public Comment: (3 Minutes per Person)
Additions/Approval of Agenda:Carolyn Frisa said while she was looking up model policies through the Vermont League City of Towns she found VLCT Model Ru1es of Procedure for Municipal Boards, Committees, and Commissions. She just had time this evening to go through and make recommended changes. Blackwood askea what that was for and Frisa said for following the open meeting law. It is.f0r gyidance for the board and a document that can be given out to the public. Blackwood calld for a vote of all in favor of adding a discussion about model rules to trustees to the agenda. There was no opposition and it was added under “New Business”. There was no dis ent on the agenda with the one addition.
Storage and Access to Trustee Communications: Frisa provided the template for Public Record Inspection, Copying and Transmission-.Policy so Blackwood turned it over to her to discuss. Frisa explained that the template was given to her by the Town of Rockingham and is a policy that the Select Board Village Trustees will be reviewing in their upcoming meetings so it is fully drafted. It was taken from VLCT andd to make it clear where she entered her suggestions, changes have a strike-through and additions are in all caps, bold. Some things are highlighted and those are things she has questions about or thought needed a little more information. Blackwood said VLCT puts this out, basically, as a template for towns to utilize if they choose to. As best as we understand, it has been reviewed by their legal beagles. Frisa added that it was her recommendation that this committee go over it tonight and make any changes we feel are appropriate and get the library board’s lawyer to review it before presenting it to the full board fordoption. Frisa added that she thinks the Select Board will look at it at their next meeting on Dec. 2nd. Blackwood said the hope would be by doing this, we’ve created an avenue for public review of communications and relieve individual trustees from having to individually answer with the same emails being sent multiple times from different people. Frisa asked what is the time for public comment. Blackwood said as a committee, we need to decide. Frisa proposed/moved three minutes per agenda item for public comment. Aldrich was ok with it; but asked if it was enough time. Joel Love thought it was a little brief. Blackwood suggested a friendly amendment to five minutes total per person and they can use it anywhere they want. Aldrich agreed/seconded and it was passed. Joel Love said there is a major hole in this and so does the town and so does VLCT in the fact that it says any written record or information with a public record regardless of physical form or characteristics which is produced or acquired in the course of public agency business. You are dealing with that which is acquired by the Rockingham Free Public Library. You are not necessarily covering all content that is in that superset which is produced if it was produced by you or your private email, or if it was produced by others . You are still custodians of those records. Blackwood agreed but; said if there is nothing else, then there is nothing to be sent. Love added if a public records request is sent to a trustee, the trustee cannot absolve themselves if it can be demonstrated with one instance that everything I have is in the repository of the library and is turned over by the custodian it’s only the things that are in that repository that are under the control of the library. The trustee as a public official is still responsible; they cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility. If the library, doesn’t provide it the person who produced it still owns it. Jan Mitchell-Love said what Joel is saying is that the repository contains copies of things generated. It cannot generate. The definition of a custodian is to generate and to receipt. You will always be the custodian of the emails and you will never be absolved of having to produce them or make sure. that the records requests are filled correctly no matter who you have doing it for you. If it goes to court, you will be the one responsible.Blackwood said she thinks we understand the point being made in that if she as a trustee sends an email and doesn’t send it to the repository and gets a records request, it’s her obligation to turn that over. lf she has done no business and it’s not in the repository her answer is zero. Loved added that on the other hand if everything that was carried on as business from the library was under the control of a library email system and under the control .of an administrator and everything occurred through that (which would be an additional expense to the town and for the library) then everything would be there by default. It and the custodian of that would be the administrator/controller of that. There is an issue from the state·archivist. Records, policies and procedures using record keeping practices needs to be taken into consideration with this. This particulur policy doesn.’t adaress these practices adequately. Blackwood asked if he had anything.written down abeut which particular thing it doesn’t address. Love said not off the top of his head; but he can draft up some examples. Houlne interjected that the town has a records retention policy that the library trustees can use as well. That would be the next step to take. Brisette. said her husband was on the school board and he has years of stuff he has to keep. Frisa said her qnderstanding is different than the public opinion here from talking with the Secretary of State and Attorney Steve Ankuda in the past. The trustees can designate a person to be the person responsible for discharging the duties of the custodian. Blackwood said the key is to make sure every email you ,send goes into the repository. Frisa feels this is the best way to do it because it is not reasonable to expect volunteers to maintain permanent records. Blackwood added that separate from a public records request, it creates a more organized system so that if someone wanted to do a history of the library and include trustee business in it, it would be in a much more organized and searchable fashion than a bunch of other ones. Frisa agreed saying when she is no longer on the library board and she moves somewhere she wants people to easily get that information. Brissette said she is unclear as to why this has become such a huge issue. She’s been on the board a little bit longer than Carolyn and has never had a problem filling any request. She feels it is more of a selfish personal reason that this is getting brought forward. She realizes some parts of this are important; but we have more things to do than all this. Mitchell Love said there is a difference between the Town of Rockingham and us. We have a repository that is volunteer. You can’t make anybody put their emails there. It also is if they remembered to put their emails there. She discovered this, not looking for it, and forwarded to Pat Fowler the other day; she didn’t copy the repository on the email. It happens. No matter what you do, the town is working on town computers and they can capture, unless they go home and write something; all of us have stuff spread out on our emails and we are custodians. She added that if somebody makes a public records request of her emails, she is going to fill it. No matter what the policy is, you can’t force her to have somebody else fill it for her when she knows, worst case scenario, she can be taken to court and she will be responsible for what somebody else doesIt is not a big deal; it’s our job to fill them. Frisa said she feels it’s a big deal because when somebody asks you for three years of public records, that is an enormous amount of time and she feels like that is being done as a way to intimidate board members, to make her lose money in her business and it is done at strategic times of the year. She doesn t think that is what the public record law was written for. Going forward, each board member gets an email account through the library’s email system. Existing emails can be forwarded to the repository or transferred by disc in whatever format they are kept in and you re done. You make it clear to new trustees that when they become a board member, if they are going to use email as a form of communication, they agree to use the email address and that’s it. It’s not part of this; this is more of a policy that is given to the public. There is a place to add that in there if you want to be specific in this policy. Blackwood said this policy doesn’t stop anyone from answering thier own requests if they choose. Everyone does have their own responsibility to make sure their records are in the repository and if it turns out they are not then that’s their issue to face if it were to come to a lawsuit. Mitchell-Love said this would be a very interesting legal thing. If you elect public officials, you can’t tell them that they have to have a library email and that you own their emails. If they say no, there is not a thing you can do. It is not enforceable and this policy is not enforceable. Brissette said she’s getting the impression that one trustee’s time is considered more valuable than other trustees. She has scads of emails. She feels it’s kind of selfish to think that someone feels put upon. She feels put upon; but it is her job to do it. Love said along those same lines in roughly May, 2013, Ray Massueco made a request for all of Jan s emails regarding the library. It took her over nine calendar days and well over 40 hours to fulfill this request. It was at the same time she was grading finals papers. She stayed up an enormous amount of time to get it done but; did it. She checked with Atty. Ankuda and he advised that she didn’t have a choice; she had to do it. Love added that he feels it is a wonderful thing to build a repository and to provide a custodian for digital artifacts and those should include everything including the emails and documents produced. Over the course of history, it would be a great thing for people to look at 50 years from now. The issue is you cannot absolve yourself of responsibility of public official by saying I don’t need to do this because I turn my emails over to someone else. It hasn’t been decided in court so fundamentally it will have to be decided in court, maybe even Vermont Supreme Court; but the reality of it is that the state has recently defined what custodian is so you have to use the normal or customary term of it and that is the person who has control of it and who has produced it. Love was reminded that his time was up. Frisa said that is why we as a committee should work on this and have a lawyer look at it. Brissette reminded the committee before getting an attorney to look at this, they need full approval from the board. Frisa said if you look on the State Treasurer’s web site, they also have a public records policy and they have appointed a staff member to act as the records custodian for purposes of receiving and responding to all requests for public records. Aldrich suggested presenting the policy to VLCT as there probably wouldn’t be a charge. The committee commenced going down through the proposed policy (template from VLCT/Rockingham Select Board). Blackwood explained that the yellow highlighted parts are new words added by Frisa using language from the Secretary of State.
Aldrich asked Love if he was ok with having a policy; but that individuals are still responsible for their own emails and he responded “yes”.
Regarding the fifth paragraph on Page 1 , Love said if the committee is limiting this to board communication, you’re severely limited and will look bad . It looks like you are protecting yourselves because it pertains to any record generated in the course of library business. It doesn t matter who it is by as long as it comes into the possession of any of you or of anybody at the library; not just the board members. That is point one. Point two, on page 3, “LlBRARY PUBLIC RECORDS ARE MAINTAINED IN STANDARD PORTABLE DOCUMENT FORMAT (PDF)”; if you check with the Assn. of American Archivists, you will find that they don’t necessarily recommend PDF anymore. They recommend a standard archival format. If you are going to build a repository for this, you ought to be building an apptopriate repository rather than limiting yourselves to a particular document format-which may or may not be extinct in a few years. Frisa said she doesn’t understand what in this document makes Mr. Love think it’s just the library board. Love said because it says “board-member all the way through this. It isn’t just the board’s public records; it’s all the business records all the public reocrds of the library. Blackwood interjected that Love is suggesting that all library business is email. Love said what he is saying is don’t limit it to just the board’s emails; it’s any employee’s emails as well. Blackwood said again it is becoming harder to enforce if you start including the whole universe; but she takes his point or perhaps Library director or people in a leadership position. Frisa said her assumption is that the library board of trustees has a policy and the library has a policy for Public records. Houlne asked that we refer this to VLCT. Right here “Town of Rockingham/Bellows..Falls Village Corporatjon” to her encompasses all the boards, all the employees, everybody. Do you Want to specifically say the library board or the Rockingham Library? Frisa apologized that Love thought that was her intent here. Typically, the way the policies are broken up, there are library staff policies and there are board policies.
Brissette said she feels it is a diservice that you are going to just include the trustees because there is a tendency to say “Oh well we’ll get back to that or do that later” with good intentions– “guilty”. Her thought on that is it might take time; but it might behoove this committee to think hard about employees/town related things that should go on there also. We being our own custodians of our emails are simpler. Brissette, Mitchell-Love and Love had other commitments and left the meeting at this point.
Blackwood recommended the committee continue going through the proposed policy so if we need our own, we’ve got it but; if the lawyer says we don’t need our own and we can just slide in under the town’s policy then we’re good. After lively discussion and public input the attached draft is attached hereto.
Please click here to download a .pdf of these minutes and all of the attachments.
Library Operations Manual: Take up at a future meeting; the policy committee will continue to work with the Library Director in refining it.New Business: Guidance- VLCT Model Rules of Procedure for Municipal Boards, Committees and Commissions. The draft will be discussed at a later date.
The policy committee meeting adjourned at 8:20p.m. Respectfully submitted on Nov. 17, 2014