By Ernie Over
The Fremont County Attorney’s office will not be taking any action surrounding the re-appointment of a County Library Board member. Former Library Board Chairman Dr. Perry Cook had originally planned not to seek reappointment, and she had emailed her intention to the County Commissioners’ office. However, in a flurry of emails from the County Library Director Anita Marple, members of her board and Cook, she reversed that decision and decided to file for reappointment, albeit after the stated deadline. After an interview with the commission, she was reappointed, along with original applicant Marta Mossburg to three-year terms. There were six applicants for the Library Board: incumbent Sherry Shelly, whose term was expiring, Joan Jones, Tina Clifford and Cady Shoutis along with Mossburg and Cook. The candidates were interviewed on June 20 and June 27.
“There isn’t any action to be taken by my office,” said County Prosecutor Patrick LeBrun in a text, “because nothing illegal occurred. However, I have heard that a policy change is being considered establishing a clearer policy regarding deadlines.”
The issue bubbled to the surface when Dr. Troy Jones of Lander appeared before the commissioners and complained that Cook should not have been reappointed because she missed the filing deadline. Jones told the commission that his appearance “is a little difficult for me because the people involved are good people, who have contributed much to our community and to this county. However, government workers Anita Marple, Becky Enos and Cook colluded to actively discriminate against the valid applicants because they deemed those conservative,” he alleged. Citing a string of emails collected through a data request to the county, Jones said the “collusion is well documented.” He told the commissioners they were “being deceived and manipulated” by their own staff. “We should have the opportunity to only have valid applicants considered and Dr. Cook’s application should be null and void,” Jones said. “Your only course of action moving forward is to select other applicants who did not collude and had their application submitted by the deadline.”
When the first three applicants submitted their information, Marple wrote to Cook on June 9 that, at the time, there were three applicants for the board, “two of which are ultra conservative activist people,” naming Clifford as one and saying she didn’t know Mossberg. Cook responded and noted that Mossberg is on the board of Abba’s House, a pregnancy help center that is anti-abortion. Cook then said she could stay on the board, if reappointed, “until we find some non-agenda applicants.”
Noting that the Library Board had been copied on the emails, Marple then apologized to the board for using the term “ultra conservative activist” in her communication with Cook. “Using that term should not imply that I don’t support their right to freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. Something I live by and regularly emphasize to the FCLS staff is the duty of the library, 1) to not have a political agenda and, 2) to treat every single person who comes into our libraries with respect.”
Marple then reported her heightened concern was because “someone who seeks to be on the board who has demonstrated through their speech or actions to advocate for a viewpoint that I believe is contrary to the library’s duty to uphold the constitutional rights of everyone.” Likewise, she said if an “ultra-progressive activist” in speech or actions she would have the same concern.
At the commission meeting when the applications were considered, according to the official minutes, “Mike Jones moved to re-appoint incumbents Perry Cook and Sherry Shelley to three-year terms. The motion died for lack of a second. Clarence Thomas moved, Jennifer McCarty seconded, to appoint Cady Shoutis and Marta Mossburg to three-year terms to the Library Board. Voting against the motion: Larry Allen, Mike Jones and Ron Fabrizius. Motion failed. Later in the meeting, a weighted ballot was taken for selection of the two applicants for the Library Board with Perry Cook and Marta Mossburg being the high vote getters. Mike Jones moved, Clarence Thomas seconded, to re-appoint Perry Cook and new applicant Marta Mossburg to three-year terms on the Library Board. Motion carried unanimously.”