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Lawyer: Kentucky Library Boards 'Taxation Without Representation'

Rob Canning, WKMS

The Calloway County Fiscal Court has hired an attorney to look into Kentucky’s laws regarding library boards.

The move comes as judge-executive Larry Elkins refuses to appoint two new members to the Calloway County Public Library Board of Trustees. Elkins has called the board’s nomination process “incestuous” while voicing opposition to the board’s $6.4 million plan for expansion. Elkins has also expressed concern that the expansion will result in higher library taxes.

Lawyer Chip Adams says library board candidates are chosen by the board itself, sent to the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives for vetting and then passed on to county judge-executives for official appointment.

“I’ve been practicing law for 20 years, but I never thought I’d ever be able to use the term ‘taxation without representation’ outside of a civics class, but, on its face, it appears that’s the way the legislature has chosen to set up libraries across the state," Adams said.

“It’s almost where libraries have become somewhat an independent governmental body that’s not subject to the ballot box," Adams said. 

Adams said this process could only be changed through the state legislature or litigation to determine the constitutionality of the law.

Acting CCPL board president Ryan Alessi said the board members aren't sure what the Fiscal Court is trying to accomplish with this move.

"I will say it’s unfortunate they’re using county taxpayer funds to hire an outside lawyer when the library board has followed all laws," Alessi said.

The CCPL Board of Trustees continues to operate with only four members. Elkins has had four candidates before him for nomination since the board's May meeting. The board's next meeting is on Wednesday, December 14.

John Null is the host and creator of Left of the Dial. From 2013-2016, he also served as a reporter in the WKMS newsroom.
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