High Plains Library District’s board of trustees will keep their seats for at least another two weeks, a Weld District Court judge ruled Thursday.
Following an hour and a half hearing, Judge Julie Hoskins ruled the current board of trustees cannot be removed from office through the resolutions of four Weld communities until a hearing for a preliminary or permanent injunction on April 28-29.
Janine Reid, executive director of High Plains, said after the hearing she was relieved by the ruling but not surprised.
“We have always thought we had a solid argument,” Reid said.
She said she looks forward to the upcoming hearings for legal clarity as to who is in charge of what in High Plains’ hybrid structure of government, which relies on the founding communities of the district to nominate and ratify board members.
Weld County Commissioner Mike Freeman, who was one of the defendants named in the court complaint, said after the hearing there wasn’t enough time to present all of the facts on Thursday, but he said he is confident the founding members of the district do have the authority to remove board members for good cause.
“I’m not at all surprised by the judge’s finding,” Freeman said. Weld County was one of the entities that passed a resolution to remove the board members.
Lawyers representing the named defendants — Weld County commissioners, the mayors of Ault, Fort Lupton, Eaton and Hudson, and the president of Fort Lupton RE-8 School District — argued Hoskins should not allow the temporary restraining order because the “certain and immediate harm” that High Plains cited as the reason for the order was speculative at best.
But High Plains’ attorney Timothy Odil said irreparable harm would come to the district with the termination of Reid as executive director. He said there have been indications that other library administration officials would also be fired, and with town mayors serving as the new trustees, he said the district could be left with few or no experts on libraries guiding High Plains operations.
Hoskins agreed, saying the irreparable harm would come from changes in administration that affect the day-to-day operations of High Plains, such as ongoing construction of new projects.
Hoskins said the process the communities took to remove board members did not follow the High Plains bylaws, and the newly nominated members would not properly represent the district.
The defense also argued the High Plains board should have passed a resolution, per legal precedent, before filing the legal complaint, and that naming individual trustee members as plaintiffs made the complaint irrelevant because board members don’t have the standing to protect their positions as appointed officials.
Hoskins found that a vote by High Plains board members authorizing legal action was sufficient. Weld commissioners, town boards for Fort Lupton and Ault, and the Fort Lupton Re-8 School District Board of Education have all passed resolutions to remove the board members.
The Eaton Town Board was set to vote on the matter on Thursday night. The Hudson Town Board on Wednesday tabled the resolution and suggested the newly nominated board members serve only on a temporary basis. The city of Greeley, which is the last founding member of the district, did not participate, citing concerns that the process is not legal.
The details of the High Plains issue — a complicated spar between member libraries, which have their own boards of directors and autonomy over their own budgets, and district administration, which member libraries say is using “strong-arm” tactics to get those libraries to cede to their power — will be discussed at length at the upcoming hearing.