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City of Crosby, library heading to mediation

The city of Crosby and the Jessie F. Hallett Memorial Library will pursue mediation in hopes of settling a dispute.

The session starts Feb. 24, and can last anywhere from 30 minutes into the next day, said Kevin Egan, one of the lawyers representing the library pro bono.

In the end, there could either be a resolution or it could still head to the courtroom.

The mediation stems from a writ of mandamus filed last year in the court system by the Jessie F. Hallett Memorial Library Board in Crosby.

A writ of mandamus is a court order that compels a government body to do something that it is legally required to do.

In this case, the library board asked the court to compel the city to follow statutes surrounding the governing of public libraries.

The library board says that the city is in "direct violation of this law" when it took out money from the library fund (without direction or approval of the library board) to pay for a city lawyer in their dispute.

The board also says that the city has not allowed it to set compensation for its employees recently, which is also a responsibility of the board, as defined in Minnesota Statute 134.

In October, a judge ordered the city to stop using library funds to pay its lawyer, to accept the library board's compensation plan for library staff, and that the city cannot prevent the library board from "exercising its statutory and fiduciary obligations" to govern the library.

Recently, the mediation was announced in an effort to prevent a full court session.

Egan said both the city and library representatives might have to compromise during mediation.

"If both sides grumble about an outcome, it was successful," he said.

"There's hurt feeling on both sides," he said.

Crosby Mayor Joanna Lattery said she's looking forward to mediation and she's "hoping for a good outcome out of it."

More on the dispute

The dispute centers around the definition of a public library and who has the power to govern certain aspects of the library board, such as whether the library board has a governing board or advisory committee.

Library board members say the operation is a public library and by statute has complete control over its rules of procedure, selecting its officers and staff, and control over the library fund.

The Crosby City Council says the library is a department of the city and therefore the council has the power to set wages and dip into funds in certain circumstances, among other things.

The recent dispute that is now ending up in court started in 2013 when the city wouldn't let the board set compensation for its employees, going against state law, the Library Board said in its writ of mandamus.

The city rejected the $13 an hour compensation for new part-timers brought forward by the library board, and set a different amount of $10, which is less than part-timers in other city departments, head librarian Peggi Beseres said.

Other part-time city employees make $10.45 and $13 an hour, she said.

Additionally, the city dipped into the library fund to pay for the city's lawyer fees in settling the matter. That adds up to about $5,800 right now.

Jessie Perrine
Jessie covers the Brainerd City Council and the Brainerd School Board. Born and raised in southern Minnesota, Jessie attended Winona State University, where she majored in journalism with a minor in women and gender studies. She worked at the Winona Daily News, Tomah Journal and the La Crosse Tribune before starting at the Dispatch in 2012.
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