Action on library petition awaits court ruling

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 19, 2011


Although one citizens group charges that the Troy City Council has violated the city charter by not taking action on a voter-initiated petition calling for the city to fund and operate a library, city leaders say there is no violation.

Last spring, the City Council approved a rolling three-year budget that does not include funding for the library past July 1.

Troy Citizens United, a group that opposed a tax increase to establish an independent library board last fall and a general operating millage increase in February, believes that the council violated the city charter by not passing the request into law or taking action to place the request before voters by Jan. 4, 30 days after the City Clerk’s Office verified the signatures.

In November, the council voted 6-1 to allow City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm to seek clarification of the petition from Oakland County Circuit Court. Councilman Martin Howrylak opposed the move.

“Council has done neither and is in violation of the Troy city charter and their oath to uphold that charter. … Council did not authorize attorney Bluhm to exceed her authority by requesting the court to extend the 30-day charter limitation. The council resolution did not authorize attorney Bluhm to violate city charter,” states Troy Citizens United.

Ed Kempen initiated and circulated the petition, which states: “In order to assure access to quality local library service, the city of Troy shall operate and maintain a public library open to the public for not less than 55 hours each week.“

Bluhm said the petition language for the proposed ordinance does not provide a funding source for the library, and the city filed the lawsuit for guidance from the court and for “more time.”

Bluhm said that Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris signed an order, “aware of the fact that without such an order, the City Council would need to take some action on the petition” on or before Jan. 4.

“There will be more hearings for the court to weigh in on whether or not this petition should properly be an election item,” Bluhm said.

If the council does not enact the ordinance, the matter would not likely come before voters until May. The city charter states that in the case of initiatory petition, if no election is to be held in the city for any other purpose within 150 days from the time the petition is presented to the City Council, then the council shall call a special election.

An election is scheduled for a portion of Troy in May for the Warren Consolidated Schools Board of Education. Troy City Clerk Tonni Barthlomew said the cost of a special election is about $90,000.

The council has the option to either put the issue directly on the ballot or open up the budget. The council plans to look at the budget for possible ways to fund the library after the International City Management Association presents a commissioned report on city efficiencies and alternative ways to deliver city services Jan. 31.

A library closure plan presented to the council in November stated that library service to the public would end April 30, and all library materials would be due May 14. The library collection would remain on the shelves for the short-term. Materials would be re-shelved, and staff would take inventory. The collection would be covered and protected by June 30, and current staff would be retained through June 30 to assist with closing responsibilities.