Trustees of the Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth are requesting Town Council approval of four amendments to its operating procedure, but Town Manager Mike McGovern believes it’s actually up to him to say whether those changes are made.

The Cape Town Council discussed the issue at its meeting Monday and agreed with McGovern’s interpretation of the town charter and adminstrative rules, which give him the power to review and approve any rule changes within town departments.

Prior to the meeting, McGovern told the Current the charter provides that “town departments report to the town manager (and) indicates that rules and regulations within departments are to be promulgated by the department head with approval of the town manager.”

He added, “In the last few years, the library (board) has begun submitting draft amendments to the library procedures manual directly to the Town Council without any administrative review. This is not in keeping with either the spirit nor the letter of the town charter.”

So, McGovern said, this “seemed to be a good time to return to the traditional process that was in place from 1967 until the last few years.”

McGovern said he raised the issue of whether changes to the operating procedures at the library should go through him or to the council because the Ordinance Committee has recently reviewed and made recommendations for changes to the rules governing volunteer boards and commissions.

Those changes were also on Monday’s agenda and prior to the meeting, McGovern said he saw the library policy question as “a corollary issue to the review conducted by the Ordinance Committee looking at the roles and responsibilities of all boards and commissions” in town.

Without addressing the issue of who has ultimate responsibility for approving operating changes at the library, Kyle Neugebauer, the library director, told the Current this week that “it’s best practice to review all standing policies every couple of years, as technology, community needs and internal workflows change.”

He said, “This is especially true for us now that we are in a new building. There are new features, such as the media lab and gaming room, and new configurations that require a second look at how we operate. Most of the policies the board has been looking at have been revisions or additions to make the policies reflect the realities of our new building.”

For instance, he said, “We have added a gaming room policy to manage that addition, along with revis(ing) the meeting room policy as we have new spaces with new equipment. I’ve also been working to change the language of the policies to make them more welcoming.”

Overall, according to Neugebauer, “The policies and rules that we put in place are designed to ensure that all members of our community have equal access and ability to enjoy and utilize their library and all of the wonderful resources in it. When doing that, there is always compromise involved as we try to reach solutions that are best for the whole.”

He added, “Policies, rules and procedures at the library are living, ever-changing documents. We are always looking at them to make sure that what we are doing is best for our community.”

In a memo to the council prior to Monday’s meeting, McGovern said, “In recent months, the Town Council has received a number of proposals from the trustees of the Thomas Memorial Library relating to issues such as pamphlet racks, procedures in the gaming room and activities in the community room.”

He said that while these proposals are labeled as policies, they really “deal with the day-to-day administration of the library (and) I recently reviewed the charter and our ordinances hoping to find some clarification on whether or not we are following the correct procedures by having these go directly to the Town Council.”

McGovern said he brought the issue forward, “in part due to a concern I had that there was no consultation with me on any of the proposals. It also seemed to me that (with these items on the agenda) the council was dealing with administrative matters” that were better left to his office to handle.

His memo also said, “The town charter provides that the town manager is responsible for the administration of all departments, (so) it is my recommendation that we should return the administration of the library to the intent of the charter and the administrative code.”

This means, McGovern said, that “department head(s) should have the ability to prescribe departmental regulations, subject to the approval of the town manager.”

But he also said that the advice of the library board “should also be sought on any proposed amendments to the library procedures manual prior to the amendments being submitted to the town manager.”

In addition to discussing the role of the town manager and the council in dealing with departmental operations, the council also agreed to use $75,000 from the town’s land acquisition fund to help the land trust purchase nearly 23 acres near Jewett Road for conservation Monday.

It also approved recommendations from an ad hoc committee to adopt new rules for playing pickleball at the tennis courts at Fort Williams Park. Under the proposal, pickleball could be played on the lower courts each Tuesday and Thursday until 11 a.m.

The committee also suggested that the town rehabilitate the basketball court near the upper tennis courts for both pickleball and tennis, which would leave the town with a total of eight pickleball courts and four tennis courts for public use.

The town charter and administrative code give the town manger final say over library policies, the Cape Town Council decides.

Mike McGovern

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