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Ordinance giving Liberty Lake City Council oversight over library policy dies after veto vote

In a 4-3 vote Tuesday night, Liberty Lake City Council failed to override a mayoral veto on the proposal.

LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. — An ordinance that would've given Liberty Lake City Council the final say to approve or reject library policies is officially dead after council failed to override a mayoral veto Tuesday night.

"My initial response was of surprise," council member Jed Spencer said of the veto, which came out May 22. 

In what some say is the first veto in city history, Mayor Cris Kaminskas suggested several wording changes to legislation she previously told KREM 2 News was 'confusing.'

While shocking to some, others were outraged.

"Seems to me the only recourse we now have is to dismiss some of the library board members," said council member Chris Cargill during Tuesday's meeting. "I certainly thought the scalpel approach was better than that type of sledgehammer, but I guess here we are."

In a phone call Wednesday, Cargill said he stood by that statement, adding that he wants transparency and open government and says council was told all along they had 'oversight to dismiss board members if they didn't like what they were doing.'

Cargill correctly guessed a motion to override the veto, which would require five of seven council members to agree, would fail.

Spencer, who also voiced his disappointment with the veto at the meeting, says the intent of the ordinance was to give council power to approve or reject library board policies.  

"Really was just to align with how we deal with other departments in the city," Spencer said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The idea also proved to be the crux for other members of council, like Tom Sahlberg.

"The sides on this are clear to me: it had to do with governance, not book-banning," Sahlberg said Tuesday. "This, in my opinion, was the correct, was the legal way to do the right thing. To listen to the citizens who were here, who are here now."

The mayor's veto cited confusing wording, especially a section that prohibited council from initiating a book ban.

She also voiced concerns council didn't listen to the public, who were often vocal in hours' worth of public comment, in the seven months it took to finalize the legislation.

"What disappoints me the most about the last 7 months is the lack of regard for citizen input. Yes, there were a lot of comments (many duplicated) from anonymous people who didn’t identify if they were residents of Liberty Lake or not. That aside, the comments were overwhelmingly opposed to these changes. Councilmembers can’t have their cake and eat it too – if you want citizen feedback, you need to listen to it," Mayor Kaminskas wrote.

"Unfortunately I feel like with the veto we've thrown the baby out with the bathwater because there were a lot of changes the board requested, the public requested," Spencer said.

There are options moving forward, Kaminskas said Wednesday.

As she suggested during the meeting, she hopes a small group from the library board and council can collaborate on continuing issues. Council can also go back to the drawing board, she said, and draft a new ordinance. The version she vetoed can't be brought up for consideration again.

Though for Spencer and Cargill, this feels like the end of the chapter.

Cargill says there's likely no opportunity to move forward, especially now that he feels trust has been broken among council.

He promised to vote against any mayoral appointments and to not vote to approve any library budgets until council gets oversight, a sentiment he stood by Wednesday when reached by phone.

Spencer feels any replacement ordinance will still fail. 

"I don't see how we could word it any differently," he said. "It appears me they're going to stick with their point of view and the majority will stick with their point of view and as long as the mayor's going to uphold what the minority is requesting of the council, I think we're kind of at a deadlock at the moment." 

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