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Group demands library documents

City: Nonprofit suing Santa Clarita to stop impending takeover asks for paperwork

Posted: October 13, 2010 10:11 p.m.
Updated: October 14, 2010 4:55 a.m.
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A newly formed nonprofit aiming to keep Santa Clarita’s three libraries managed by the Los Angeles County library system is now asking for the court to order the release of any documents related to the city’s takeover, according to an updated complaint filed Tuesday.

Save Our Library filed a lawsuit against the city earlier this month seeking to stop the city’s impending takeover of the three local libraries and keep the city from sharing private library-patron information with a library-management company.

The new addition, in an update to their previous complaint filed with the North Valley District of the California Supreme Court on Tuesday, demands documents that Santa Clarita officials had refused to turn over, citing attorney-client privilege and other reasons.

The Santa Clarita City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to have City Attorney Carl Newton’s law firm, Burke, Williams & Sorensen, defend the lawsuit.

The Santa Clarita City Council voted Aug. 24 to withdraw from the county library system and create a city division to run the three libraries. The City Council also voted to enter into a $19-million, 5-year contract with the private library-management firm Library Systems & Services LLC to operate the system.

The moves — taken in a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Bob Kellar against — caught residents who said they are generally happy with the county libraries by surprise.

The first the public heard of the city staff’s proposal to withdraw from the Los Angeles County Library System was July 13. That’s when Councilwoman Laurie Ender, speaking as a member of the Library Ad-Hoc Committee, requested City Council consideration for a withdrawal from the county system at its next City Council meeting.

The City Council voted Aug. 24 after three hours of public testimony, most of it opposing the move until more questions are answered.

Save Our Library members attempted to answer those questions in a public records request under the state’s Brown Act, according to the complaint filed by the group’s leader, attorney Don Ricketts. Save Our Library asked for any documents related to the takeover of the library, including all studies, proposals, correspondence or bids.

The city responded by saying all records could be inspected, except those falling under exceptions in the state open-records law, such as documents that contain privileged attorney-client information or information that is in preliminary-draft form.

Ricketts’ lawsuit says the city’s response “fails to give any indication of the nature of the records, which it is withholding, and fails to present adequate justification for withholding the records.”

The city has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit, Newton said.

Newton said he couldn’t yet say what form the response might take, but he noted that an injunction is not possible.

The city is also working on a response to a letter from library patrons and workers filed Sept. 28, which requested the city take back its library-takeover vote and hold three public hearings on the matter.

The letter-writers allege the city violated the Brown Act by discussing and making a decision to take over the libraries in closed-session meetings. The Library Ad-Hoc Committee was originally formed to discuss ways to pay for the new Newhall Library.

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