High Plains Library District Board agrees to settle case against Weld County
February 3, 2017
The Board of Weld County Commissioners is expected to vote on the settlement at its Wednesday meeting, which takes place at 9 a.m. at the Weld County administration building, 1150 O Street.
The High Plains Library District Board on Friday agreed to settlement terms with Weld County and surrounding municipalities, bringing to an end nearly three years of litigation and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
The terms of the settlement, however, are being withheld despite a public vote by the public body.
The lawsuit, originally filed by the district in April 2014, had its inception in a Board of Weld County Commissioners attempt to replace the library board with one of its own choosing in response to complaints from member libraries throughout the county.
Since the spring of 2014, the parties involved have spent more than $250,000 in legal fees, and were prepared for a trial to start Monday.
The 11th-hour settlement averts a potentially costly trial, but will require formal agreement of the various parties to the lawsuit, including the Board of Weld County Commissioners.
"I'm just glad its finally settled, and I'm glad we can save taxpayer money and not go to trial," Weld County Commissioner Mike Freeman said. "Calmer heads prevailed, and we were able to work this out."
Brian Larson, High Plains Library District board member, said the settlement was fair to all concerned, and he said he thinks it will lead to better relationships for all parties involved in the future.
The Tribune requested the settlement agreement after the 1 p.m. meeting but was told it couldn't be released because it hadn't yet been signed, pending some lawyer-led potential changes. High Plains Library District officials said further details would be provided in a Friday afternoon news release, but those details never emerged.
Freeman provided at least a slight glimpse at what the settlement might entail.
"I'm really glad everybody was able to work it out and come to a spot where we could settle, and move on and do what the goal has been for a very long time, and that is to get a legitimate board seated on the High Plains Library District," Freeman said.
Freeman and other county commissioners first got involved when various boards from Fort Lupton, Ault, Eaton and Hudson approached the commissioners about issues with the library district.
In fall 2013, the library district told member libraries that they wouldn't supply a new computer program unless the member libraries bought district-approve computers. The library district later backed off that requirement, offering to provide the new computers. But that wasn't enough for member libraries. The district also required a contract update with terms members wouldn't accept.
Members, along with the Board of Weld County Commissioners, attempted to oust the library district's board of trustees. The library district sought, and got, an injunction barring the new board from taking over.
At that time, Weld District Court put an injunction on the library board, which froze the library board members in their positions but removed their ability to make policy decisions without each member library's permission. The library district was barred from taking any significant actions without court approval.
An appeal from the Board of County Commissioners was denied.
In April 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear the case, and the parties worked on crafting a solution, and preparing for trial.
Tyler Silvy covers city and county government for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.