Sussex village board will discuss library strategy
Village of Sussex — Village trustees were expected to discuss during a closed session of the Village Board Tuesday night various strategies to deal with the legal entanglements that have become wrapped around the Pauline Haass Library, which the village will take over at the beginning of next year.
The meeting was scheduled to take place after Sussex Sun publications deadlines.
Lisbon town board members have notified the village that the town is terminating the joint funding and operations agreement between the two municipalities that has governed library operations for 27 years at the end of the year .
The inability of the two municipalities to reach an agreement on a new funding formula for the library and the Library Board filing a lawsuit against the town prompted the town board to decide to terminate the agreement, according to town officials.
Town officials contend that they are entitled to half of the library's assets and have asked the village to begin negotiations over how those assets will be divided. Village officials do not believe the town is entitled to assets since the town opted out of the agreement and the village plans to continue library operations.
"Rather than spend countless taxpayers dollars on attorneys, I wanted to suggest that perhaps both boards form committee to address the dissolution and if an agreement cannot be reached, the Village and Town agree to mediation," Town Chairman Matt Gehrke said in a July 17 letter to Village President Greg Goetz.
In addition, there are multiple pending legal actions.
The Library Board has filed a lawsuit against the town seeking "custody and control" of about 65 acres of farm land that was donated by the late Pauline Haass to the town to be used for town purposes.
Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge James R. Kieffer has asked the parties engage in out of court mediation before a trial scheduled for October. The town has asked the judge to order the village to participate in the mediation. The village, so far, has refused.
Village officials have argued since, according to state law, the library board has sole jurisdiction over its assets, the village cannot be engaged in negotiations between the Library Board and the town relating to the Haass farm land.
The town has filed a countersuit against the Library Board seeking a court injunction that would define and limit how the library board spends money between now and the end of the year.
The status of these lawsuits and legal maneuvers after Jan. 1 is uncertain. The joint municipal library will no longer exist but the library will continue to operate under village control. The Village Board will appoint a majority of the members of a new library board.
Village Administrator Jeremy Smith said he expected the trustees to discuss several different options and strategies but he declined to identify what some of them might be.
"I don't want to discuss the details of strategies that will be discussed in a closed session," he said.
State law allows municipal boards to meet in closed session to private discuss strategies that they may use in pending or probable litigation.
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