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Gladstone Library Board blasts lawsuit against Clackamas County

An internal dispute threatens to derail Gladstone's lawsuit against Clackamas County to demand another $1.5 million for library funding.

Five members of Gladstone's Library Board last week publicly questioned the City Council's decision to sue the county, “yet again” spending money on legal fees in what the library board members expect will be another fruitless quest to build a new library.

Gladstone Library Board members requested that Steve Johnson, the current City Council liaison to the board, be replaced with someone who “will provide positive support and guidance of combining two boards and two neighboring communities together.” Several candidates running for City Council in November would like the city to work with the county in an attempt to resuscitate the plan rather than pursue the lawsuit.

“I understand their angst about the lawsuit, but those are decisions that the governing board makes with lots of consultation from our legal counsel,” Johnson said. “They probably will never have all the facts, because a lot of it is executive [session material].”

Before handing over any money, Clackamas County has requested a consolidation of library boards that would give more weight to unincorporated-area residents. Gladstone sued the county before the creation of the requested library board with 70 percent unincorporated-area “fair representation” based on population.

Gladstone Library Board members said it appeared that the formation of this requested citizen task force was one of the key factors to demonstrate good faith by the City Council. According to their letter, Oak Lodge and Gladstone library board members, who have been attending one another's meetings, share a mutual desire to form a citizen task force to discuss how to bring the two communities together to design a library that will benefit both communities.

“The library board disagrees with this motion to sue for entitlement rather than work with community members to build support,” they wrote. “We recommend that the City Council use citizens from both library boards in Gladstone and Oak Lodge to create a task force with 'fair representation' and allow these citizens to bring a plan to the City Council, which both parties can agree on. We would like to ask for a neutral facilitator from the county who will guide the conversations surrounding the library, and hopefully provide a smooth coupling of our communities.”

Johnson said that City Council is acting under the direction of a successful 2014 library ballot measure in which Gladstone voters approved building a 13,000-to-16,000-square-foot library on Portland Avenue. He said that county commissioners have been encouraging citizens from Oak Lodge and Gladstone to work together to re-evaluate the plan for the library without regard for the decisions that Gladstone's voters and City Council have already made.

“It's an act of sedition and the governing body of Gladstone is being disrespected,” Johnson said.