Are You Trustee-Worthy? - Ethics for Trustees

This archived event was part of Everyday Ethics, a collaborative program from the Kansas Regional Library Systems and the State Library of Kansas.

Originally presented on May 25, 2010.

Gina Millsap, Executive Director, Topeka & Shawnee County (KS) Public Library.

Gina leads an organization of 240 incredible employees serving a library-loving community of 173,000. She's worked in libraries for 30+ years and received her MLS in the previous century. Her degree may be an antique, but her outlook isn't. She's a Library Journal 2007 Mover and Shaker and president of the Library Leadership & Management Association (LLAMA) of the American Library Association.

The duties of public library trustees are clearly delineated by law and policy, but what defines how those responsibilities are performed? How should a board of trustees hold itself and its members accountable for their actions and decisions?  Why should someone serve on a library board?  Why should someone not be appointed, decline to serve or choose to resign?  Trustees must exercise their authority with care, place the library's interests before their own personal and professional interests, and uphold the library's policies while advancing its mission. Come learn how you and your board can make sure you're trustee-worthy.

Are You Trustee - Worthy? Ethics for Trustees from State Library of Kansas on Vimeo.

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Question on inactive trustees raised during "Are You Trustee-Worthy?"

A question was raised at the webinar about the best approach to inactive board members who repeatedly miss meetings.

The State Library has advised library boards to have a policy which states that absence from three boardmeetings without a valid excuse will result in a request from the Board Chair to resign from the board. Aninactive trustee should not be approached unless the policy is in place and all board members are aware of it.

If the trustee resigns, the problem is solved and the board asks the appointing body for a replacement.

A question has been raised about what would happen if the trustee refused to resign, or asserted that the board has no legal basis to take action because there is no statutory provision for the removal of a library trustee.

While this is an unlikely contingency, it could certainly become locally controversial and damaging to the library.

Topeka Trustee and former State Librarian Duane Johnson was consulted on this issue by the webinar presenter. He suggested that the shortest path to resolution would be to ask the State Library to request an Attorney General's Opinion on the authority of the board to ask for the resignation of a trustee for specific cause. The reasonable basis for such an AG Opinion might be that KSA 12-1225 gives to the library board authority for adopting policy for the library's administration.

An AG Opnion would take the issue away from local controversy and clarify the authority of the board.