Fresno County Library mailer sparks debate

April 11, 2013 12:59:01 AM PDT
Fresno County voters seem to love their libraries. When they went to the polls last November more than 70 percent voted in favor of Measure B.

The 1/8 cent sales tax provides about $13 million a year to help fund the county library system. But now, three county supervisors are concerned the voters may have been improperly influenced.

The campaign to support Measure B was paid for by the 'Friends of the Fresno County Library.' They raised more than $100 thousand to get out the vote. But Fresno County's Librarian, Laurel Prysiazny also had a pamphlet mailed out before the election, explaining why Measure B was needed.

She tells Action News, "It was an educational mailer, my understanding is we have every right to educate the public and should because, after all its their dollars they are voting on."

But, Supervisor Debbie Poochigian has long believed that mailer was not educational, it was a piece of promotional material for the campaign.

Poochigian explained, "It went just to registered voters likely registered voters so they weren't educating the public they were educating the voters."

The issue surfaced at this week's meeting of the Board of Supervisors when it was discovered the county's mailing costs for last year were $30 thousand over budget.

The library mailer was tagged as the culprit. Supervisors Poochigian, Phil Larson, and Andreas Borgeas said they wanted the Measure B campaign to pay the county back. The trouble is, Measure B didn't create or authorize the mailer. The county librarian did.

Prysiazny explained, "I operated under the best information I had, County Counsel approved the flyer before it went out and I thought we were doing the right thing."

County attorney Kevin Briggs told the board he did tell the librarian the flyer looked okay. But Poochigan believes he was misled about how the pamphlet would be distributed.

Poochigan said, "The timing was suspect the targeted mailing was suspect."

Supervisor Judy Case objected to the other board members making a big deal out of this.

"I don't agree I think it's just sending a grenade out," said Case.

She argued for a new policy, clarifying the difference between a political campaign and an informational campaign.

Prysiazny says she is all for that. "I know they are looking at potentially setting up some policies which I welcome because I didn't have that, I think it's great they are going to do that and if it sets the stage for future measures and elections and what not then I think it's great."

The board agreed, but they also directed their staff try and figure out who, if anyone, should get the bill for the mailer.


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