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Washougal Library Pornography and the City Council

by Margaret Tweet

Incidents of adults accessing and printing pornography in the Washougal library in close proximity and in view of young children were reported by citizens to the Washougal City Council as noted in the minutes linked below.

Pornography viewing and printing is allowed in the Ft. Vancouver library system. Illegal pornography is available, but  prohibited. The City of Washougal owns the building the library operates in.

Citizens suggested that the city not allow pornography viewing in the library in light of the children and others in the facility.  An adjacent community room does not allow alcohol consumption.  The city and library had a lease which had been in place for years.  After these reports became public, the library and a subcommittee of the Washougal City Council   met in a non-public meeting to discuss a new lease.  Meetings of the city council including sub-committee meetings are subject to the open public meetings act in many jurisdictions. However,  the city of Washougal explained that sub-committee meetings of council members are not open to the public in Washougal, and indeed citizens were not allowed to observe.  Subcommittee meetings of boards and commissions subject to the Open Public Meetings Act are open to the public in the City of Camas.

Council Member Brian Beecher failed to speak up in support of taking corrective action.  Instead, he explained that the FVRL library board is separate from the city  and recommended citizens go to the appointed library board. This  seemed an apparent effort to excuse the city from doing what is possible to improve the situation. When the secretly negotiated lease was scheduled for a vote on May 17, Beecher was absent and failed to vote. According to a tape of the meeting, the reason for his absence was stated as  "something about welcoming a potential new voter into  his brothers' family".  Council member Stacee Sellers gave the excuse that she had a class to attend and was also absent.

A permanent lease was signed with FVRL with no conditions about pornography viewing by a vote of 3-2. Councilmembers Garry Alexander and Rod Morris voted against going ahead with the contract and expressed support for further research and a full council to vote on the contract. There was no urgent reason provided for moving hastily ahead with the contract.

The library mentioned that if the state auditor were to review the contract,  there might be questions posed.  However, the state auditor typically makes an effort to understand any irregularities, and gives ample room to government agencies to explain and correct the situation. When the library had irregular practices regarding the disposal of materials, the auditor didn't review the situation until the regularly scheduled audit, and the library was given ample time to change policies to comply with  state law. The auditor typically doesn't examine a non-fraud situation until the scheduled audit takes place , once every few years. Excerpts from the May 17 meeting related to the library are included here.


Washougal City Councilman Beecher absent for Washougal Library porn vote

From City Council Meeting Minutes, May 17th, 2004 (PDF File)

"Candace Morgan from the FVRL stated the problems with delaying
the signing of a contract. It was mentioned that it would be
nice if the Council could hear Mr. McGill's input. Councilperson
Sanders stated that enough information has been presented
and the contract needs to be voted on. Councilperson Peterson
mentioned the options of signing the contract, not signing the
contract and signing the contract with stipulations which is not
really an option as representatives of FVRL have stated.
Councilperson Alexander believes more information is needed
before Council can make a decision and he would like the two
absent Council members to have a chance to state their views on
the issue.
The location and access to copy machines where
pornographic material can be printed was discussed."

"Motion: Table Agenda Bill 82-04 (Renewal of Library Contract) to the second meeting in June. Alexander/Morris. Motion failed 2/3. Sanders,
Peterson and Alder voted nay."

"Motion: Authorize the Mayor to sign the agreement between
Fort Vancouver Regional Library District and the City of
Washougal. Sanders/Peterson. Motion carried 3/2.
Alexander and Morris voted nay."

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