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“Limestone County citizens” raising funds to hire lawyer for fight against library

The fundraiser appeared Wednesday on a site called GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding alternative.

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A group of Limestone County citizens is hoping to raise $5,000 to hire representation to consider next steps in their fight against the Athens-Limestone Public Library board.

The fundraiser appeared Wednesday on a site called GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding alternative that has drawn criticism for allowing far-right extremists to fundraise including neo-nazis and white supremacists.

The creator of the fundraiser is simply labeled “Limestone County citizens,” but the fundraiser was shared by Elizabeth Mattson-Stewart on Wednesday to The Cullman County Republican Women Facebook group. Mattson-Stewart and Roy Mattson appeared at the Alabama Public Library Service meeting on May 16 asking the state agency to intervene in the funding of the Athens-Limestone library until it established county representation.

The campaign is seeking to raise $5,000 and already has $2,100 after one day, primarily from two anonymous donors who gave $1,000 and $500 respectively.

The dispute stems from the library having incorrect policies posted on its webpage for years, and submitting those same incorrect policies to the APLS to receive funding.

The APLS board chose not to take any action except to recommend that the Athens City Council or Limestone County Commission request an AG opinion on the matter. Both government bodies met four days after the APLS decision, and neither requested an AG opinion, but Athens city attorney Shane Black introduced a resolution to explore converting the library board to a joint city-county board, and the city council unanimously approved the resolution.

“County citizens have continued paying as if it’s a joint board since 2009 but without representation,” the creator of the fundraiser wrote. “Multiple county-only residents applied to an open seat in the Fall of 2023 and the City Council instead put the Vice Chair in for a third consecutive term instead of allowing a county-only resident a seat. County residents are seeking legal answers to public policy being incorrect for 15 years. County-only residents are asking for legal help to know why their board continues to tell the APLS its a joint library board when that hasn’t been for almost two decades.”

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Despite the errant policy on the website and submitted to APLS, it’s unclear what avenue a lawyer can help Limestone County citizens pursue in regards to the library board.

Black provided documentation to APR showing the resolutions, approved by both Athens City Council and Limestone County Commission, creating a public library authority rather than a joint city-county board in 2003. Then, in 2009, the library authority was dissolved and converted to a municipal library board. However, the city already made all appointments to the public library authority.

County Commissioner Collin Daly confirmed this same information during an interview with Patrick Camp of the The News Courier.

“They did form a joint library board for a while and then the county went back and said hey y’all [the city] just handle all that and we’ll give money to it. It’s been kind of back and forth over the years but we’ve all got a good working relationship on it,” Daly said.

Mattson-Stewart is associated with the Madison County chapter of Moms for Liberty, and Daly said it has been Moms for Liberty pushing the commission on the issue. Mattson-Stewart and Carissa Callan in January called on the commission to adopt policy protecting children from sexual content, and at the next meeting the commission unanimously passed a resolution approving of Gov. Kay Ivey’s recommended APLS code changes.

Otherwise, Daly said the commission has been happy with the operation of the library.

“The library itself and April and them do a great job down there. We’re not worried about the healthiness of the library,” he said. “The board has done what has been asked of them. They’ve adopted the governor’s recommendations in the last meeting. There’s no books in the library that have an issue. The board has done has done what they needed to do to fix everything.”

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Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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