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Library History - Part 4

Library History - Part 1  Library History - Part 2 Library History Part 3

Compiled and Edited by Michael R. Reilly

October 10, 2005, Last Revised 03/24/2015

Public Library Services for the Lisbon - Sussex Community

2006 - Present


Sussex unanimously votes to take over Pauline Haass Library

Printed Lake Country Reporter, Nov. 14, 2014

Village of Sussex As expected, the Sussex Village Board, with virtually no debate and a unanimous voice vote, on Nov. 11 approved an ordinance that will facilitate the village's takeover of the Pauline Haass Library on Jan. 1, 2015.

There was no discussion during the village board meeting about the financial or tax implications of the village assuming most of the operating costs of the library, which has an annual operating budget of about $1 million.

However, village staff previously assured trustees that with a combination of revenue sources the village can fund most of the library operations without significantly affecting municipal taxes.

"This has to be done so the library can move forward," Village Trustee Tim Dietrich, who is also library board president, told the village board.

Village President Greg Goetz vowed earlier this year that the village would maintain the library at its existing level of services after the town of Lisbon announced it would terminate a 27-year agreement in which the town and village shared most of the funding for the library.

The town contributed about $425,000 annually to the library. Much of that money will be paid to the village through a Waukesha County library tax that will now be levied against town residents.

The village can also use money in the future that previously had to be aside each year to pay off the village's share of the debt service on the library building. The debt on the building will be retired at the end of the year.

Town officials may seek legal action against the village, claiming that the village cannot take over the library building because the town has a partial interest in the building through the debt service it also paid on it.

Town officials are also claiming that according to the joint agreement they are entitled to a portion of the library's other assets, since the joint municipal library and board will be dissolved at the end of this year.


Haass Library dispute may go to 2016

Negotiations unsuccessful as court schedules trial in late 2015

Printed Living Sussex Sun, Nov 24, 2014

Town of Lisbon In August of 2012 when former Lisbon Supervisor Robert Williams warned the Pauline Haass Library Board that it could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars if the library board got into a legal fight with the town, he was scoffed at by some library officials who thought he exaggerating.

After the events of last week, perhaps Williams should be taken more seriously.

It appears likely that Lisbon and Sussex taxpayers could face the possibility of a years worth of legal bills unless an out of court compromise is reached.

The library has filed a lawsuit against the town seeking "custody and control" of the 65-acre Haass farm that was donated to the town for library purposes.

Earlier this year, the town terminated the municipal agreement with Sussex that created the library 27 years ago. The town says it is entitled to share of the library's assets since the agreement is being dissolved.

The village does not believe the town is entitled to any money.

The village has an advantage because most of its legal expenses have been paid by insurance coverage while taxpayers dollars have been paying town and library board legal sources.

Judge James R Kieffer of the Waukesha County Circuit court, during a Nov. 18 conference with lawyers, laid out a litigation schedule that indicates the four-year-old controversy between the town, the library board and the Village of Sussex is likely to continue into late 2015 and possibly 2016.

Included in that schedule is the possibility of jury trial late in 2015 or early 2016, and a summer full of hearings on key motions that may determine whether the conflict comes to abrupt end or continues.

The lawyers told the judge there was "no point" in ordering a new round of formal mediation sessions between the town, village and library board since the previous attempt at reaching an out of court compromise failed.

However, the Sussex Sun has learned from town and village sources familiar with the negotiations that there still may be a glimmer of hope for an out-of-court settlement.

The sources who are familiar with the various proposals in the negotiations spoke on the condition of anonymity because no one is authorized to publicly discuss details of the mediation sessions.

In addition to the details, the sources also provided insight into the negotiations that indicate the elected officials on the negotiating teams, Village Trustee Tim Dietrich and town board Chairman Matt Gehrke and Supervisor Joe Osterman, have a common goal of trying to end the dispute as soon and as equitably as possible

"The Town Board does not want to hurt the library. We wish the village good luck in taking over the library and we want to see it succeed. But we have a lot of money that we invested in the library and we would like some of it back," said Gehrke.

Gehrke would not publicly discuss details of the negotiations.

According to the sources, the town board rejected a proposal offered by village and library negotiators that the town would maintain control of the Haass farm and be paid $50,000 from the estimated $3 million library assets.

The proposal was never presented to the village board or library board since the town board rejected it. The town proposed a counter offer, according to the sources.

The town would maintain control of the Haass Farm land and be permitted to forego a final payment of $105,000 to library operations in 2014.

The negotiators for the library and village rejected that proposed.

Village Administrator Jeremy Smith, according to the sources, devised another proposal that the town would turn the Haass land over to the library as an out-of-court settlement to the legal dispute between the town and library boards.

The land, or its equivalent value, would be returned to the town has part of a division of assets settlement between the village and the town.

However, lawyers overseeing the negotiations nixed the idea because they were not confident it was legal. It is uncertain when or if the negotiations will resume.

Because the town terminated the joint municipal agreement, the library board will cease to exist after Dec. 31.

The village of Sussex has created a new single municipal Pauline Haass Library that will be governed by a new 11-member board with seen members appointed by the village board and four by the Waukesha County Board.

Town attorney Katheryn Gutenkunst says she will ask the court to take control of the library assets until the disputes are resolved.

She is also likely to ask the court to dismiss the dispute over control of the Haass land since the library board which initiated law suit ceased to exist as of Dec. 31.

Kieffer plans to schedule hearings on those issues next summer. A new judge will be taking over the case later in 2015 since Kieffer is retiring.


Haass Library to open with more money

Printed Living Sussex Sun, Dec. 16, 2014

 

Village of Sussex When the newly created Pauline Haass village library opens its doors on Friday, Jan. 2, its $1 million operating budget will get more money from Waukesha County than anticipated.

Connie Meyer, director of the Waukesha County Federated Library System, told the newly appointed village library board last week that it will receive $428,000 from the county, which is about $145,000 more than expected, according to Library Director Kathy Klager.

Klager and Meyer explained the additional revenues are the result of the Waukesha County Board recalculating how much money in county library tax funds would be paid to the village library for providing services to communities that do not have libraries, including the town of Lisbon.

The formula adjustment was necessary, according to Meyer and Klager, because county officials have never before dealt with the conversion of a joint municipal library to a single municipal library.

The conversion occurred because the town of Lisbon voted earlier this year to terminate the 27-year-old agreement with the village of Sussex that funded and operated the Pauline Haass joint municipal library. The Sussex Village Board opted to take over the library operations and has appointed a new library board whose members will begin their terms on Jan. 1.

Village officials initially do not expect much of an impact on local tax rates because the amount of money being levied for the library approximates the amount of money the village was contributing in operating, capitol and debt service funds previously as a result of the joint library agreement.

The library board will have a unique relationship with village government because, although the village board appoints library board members and levies taxes that enable the library to operate, village trustees have limited authority over the library's budget and operations, according to state law.

"There is a very unique relationship between library boards and municipal governments and sometimes it can cause problems. It can create tensions," she added.

Seven of the 11 members of the board are appointed by village trustees and four members are appointed by the county board. The county board appoints representatives of communities whose taxpayers pay the county library tax and rely on library services provided by the village library.

The members appointed by the village board include Village Trustee Tim Dietrich, Ann Wegner, Linda Meagher, Lisa Bougie, Jen Vande Hei, Vicki Barden and John Roubik, who is the Hamilton School District representative on the board.

Those appointed by Waukesha County include Christopher Koenig of the village of Merton, Julie Hacker and Julie Kucharski of the town of Lisbon and Emil Glodoski, also of the Town of Lisbon.


Sussex-Lisbon library relationship ends

Printed Living Sussex Sun, Dec. 22, 2014

Village of Sussex A 27-year relationship between the town of Lisbon and the village of Sussex that created and funded the Pauline Haass Library ended last week with a 15-minute meeting of the joint municipal library board, which will go out of business on Dec. 31.

"I think it is the shortest meeting we have had in the 13 years I have been on the board," said former town supervisor and library board president Robert Williams.

Earlier this year, the town of Lisbon voted to terminate the agreement after negotiations with the village of Sussex for a new library funding formula failed and the library board decided to sue the town over custody and control of the 65-acre Pauline Haass farm that was donated to the town to be used for library purposes.

Since the board will be dissolved as of Jan. 1, the status of its lawsuit against the town that is pending in Waukesha County Circuit Court remains unclear. Since efforts at out-of-court mediation have failed, it appears likely, based on the court's docket, that there may be a trial either later this year or early next year.

The village board has opted to take over the library, create a new library board, and provide about a half million dollars in village funds for the library, which will also receive funds from Waukesha County.

Library and village officials suggest that the newly created municipal library board is merely a continuation of the previous joint municipal board and the lawsuit may continue.

Town officials and lawyers argue that it is a newly created library since the agreement that created the library has been terminated and the library is now a municipal library created by the village of Sussex.

Town Attorney Katheryn Gutenkust has asked the circuit court to place the estimated $3 million in assets attributed to the library in a trust until the legal issues can be resolved.

During the meeting, Sussex Village Administrator Jeremy Smith thanked both Lisbon and Sussex members of the joint municipal board for their services to the library and the communities.

Smith suggested that it was the village that first created a library and the town later joined with the village in library operations and 28 years later decided to withdraw.

Town Chairman Matt Gehrke later disagreed.

"Everyone knows what the town and village's different positions are. I was disappointed Jeremy would say something like that in that setting. The documents clearly indicate that it was the joint agreement that created the library," he concluded.

During the meeting, Library Director Kathy Klager reported that the town made its final payment to the library board of about $105,000.

That final payment had been a key issue in the unsuccessful mediation sessions. At one point, the town offered to settle the dispute in exchange for not making the final payment and reaching a compromise with the village on the disposition of the Haas farm land, according to several sources.


Lisbon wants library lawsuit dismissed

Posted Lake Country Reporter, Jan. 20, 2015

Town of Lisbon The Pauline Haass Joint Municipal Library board no longer exists, and therefore its lawsuit against the town of Lisbon seeking control of farmland donated by Haass to the town should be dismissed, according to Town Attorney Kathy Gutenkunst.

Gutenkunst is expected to ask Circuit Court Judge James Kieffer to dismiss the lawsuit during a hearing scheduled for Jan. 29.

Kieffer may also rule on another motion by Gutenkunst asking the judge to take control of the assets of the former joint library board.

Gutenkunst argued that the joint library board ceased to exist on Dec. 31 because the town decided to terminate a joint municipal library agreement with the village of Sussex The village has adopted an ordinance creating a municipal library board and is continuing to operate the library.

According to Gutenkunst, the town is entitled to a share of the approximately $3 million in assets that were controlled by the joint library board.

However, attorneys for Sussex and library have argued that the town is not entitled to any of the assets because the town withdrew from the agreement. Gutenkunst wants the court to control those assets until the legal issues are resolved.

David Hasse, attorney for the joint municipal library board, has argued that the newly created village library board is empowered to continue to carry out the responsibilities of the joint municipal library board, including attempting to enforce a state law that requires all donations to libraries be in the "custody and control" of a library board.


Judge rules former library board no longer entitled to 65 acres of farmland

by Kelly Smith

Posted Lake Country Reporter, Jan. 30, 2015

A judge's ruling last week may have settled a legal dispute over the Pauline Haass Library but left unresolved issues between the town of Lisbon and village of Sussex that may have to be settled in a trial scheduled for later this year or early 2016.

Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge James R. Kieffer ruled on Thursday that the former Pauline Haass Joint Municipal Library Board ceased to exist on Nov. 11 and can no longer claim that it was entitled to "custody and control" over 65 acres of farmland that the late Pauline Haass donated to the town for library purposes.

The judge scheduled for Aug. 24 a conference between lawyers for the town and village to prepare for a trial on the issues of whether or not the town is entitled to a share of the assets that were controlled by the former library board and, if so, how much.

Town officials have argued they are entitled to some library assets that are valued at about $3 million, including the land, building, books and materials and cash reserves that existed when the an agreement between the town and village that created, funded and operated the library was terminated.

Control of assets

Lawyers for the village and library have countered the town is not entitled to any of the assets because the town terminated the agreement and the village continues to operate the library.

Kieffer denied a request by the town that the court control those assets until the issues between the town and village are resolved.

Lisbon lawyers had previously contended that because the town had voted earlier this year to terminate the agreement with the village , the joint municipal library board had ceased to exist as of Dec. 31.

However, the lawyers later realized that the village of Sussex had repealed on Nov. 11 an ordinance that established the joint library and adopted a new ordinance that created a new library board that would continue operating the library on behalf of the village board, according to Lisbon Town lawyer Kathy Gutenkunst.

New library board

The village board took the action in order to create a new board and allow operations to continue after the joint agreement ended on Dec. 31, according to Timothy Johnson, an insurance company lawyer representing the village.

Library lawyer David Hase aruged state law allowed the former library board to pass its interests in the legal action onto the the newly created library board. Hase pointed out the previous library board adopted a resolution passing those interests in the new board on Nov. 18.

However, Kieffer agreed with Lisbon lawyers who argued the resolution passed on Nov. 18 could not be effective because the joint municipal library board ceased to exist on Nov. 11 when the village board acted.

"One could argue they (the village of Sussex) terminated the agreement before the twn of Lisbon," Kieffer said.

Frustration

Hase and Johnson said no decision would be made on whether to appeal the judge's ruling until they had conferred with their clients.

However, library board president Tim Dietrich, who attended the hearing, was obviously frustrated by the ruling.

"Everyone talks about us (municipalities) sharing services but after all we have gone through, I don't know that we want to share services with anyone, said Dietrich who is also a village trustee.

Dietrich was president of the former joint library board and was later elected president of the newly created village library board by the 10 other members who are appointed by the village and Waukesha County.

Dietrich said he did not know the legal implications of the joint library board's actions - which included paying thousands of dollars in bills - that were taken in two meetings that occurred after Nov. 11.

Good faith

However, he said the library board members had acted in good faith during those meetings and had no idea there was an question about whether the board still existed.

Dietrich has argued that the joint library board had a "fiduciary responsibility" to seek custody and control of the Haass land since the town intended to terminate the agreement with the village.

Town board members have said the lawsuit filed by the library board was a contributing factor to their decision not to renew the agreement with the village of Sussex.

Board members were not happy that, because of the agreement, town taxpayers were required to help pay for library lawyers who were taking legal actions against the town.


Lisbon, Sussex taxpayers share rising costs of legal battle of Pauline Haass Library

Posted Lake Country Reporter, Feb. 13, 2015

Taxpayers in the town of Lisbon and village of Sussex have paid more than $100,000 in legal fees over the last two years because of a bureaucratic squabble between elected town officials and appointed members of a library board that no longer exists over "control and custody" of about 65 acres of farmland and it appears the legal bills may keep mounting.

A newly created village library board for the Pauline Haass Public Library is scheduled to meet behind closed doors Wednesday, Feb. 18, to decide whether to continue the legal battle after a ruling three weeks ago by Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge James Kieffer.

Kieffer ruled that since the joint municipal library board went out of existence on Nov. 11, it can no longer claim it should have "control and custody" of farmland once owned by Pauline Haass.

Lawyers for both sides agree that an unanswered question is whether the newly created village library board can appeal a court ruling regarding the previous joint municipal library board.

The judge ruled that the joint municipal library board ceased to exist when the village board passed an ordinance creating a new village library board. The new library board was created, according to village officials, so the Pauline Haass Library could continue to operate after Dec. 31, 2014, when a joint funding agreement with the town of Lisbon expired.

The combined legal cost for the dispute between the Lisbon town board and joint municipal library board is estimated at $115,362 based on documents provided by public officials and lawyers in response to an open records request submitted to both government entities by Lake Country Publications.

The communities are sharing the legal expenses because of an agreement reached 27 years ago between the town and the village that created and funded the Pauline Haass Public Library, which was governed until recently by the seven-member joint municipal library board.

Town officials are particularly perturbed that their taxpayers have to pay the legal expenses of a library board that is suing the town despite the fact the town helped create the library nearly three decades ago.

Lisbon residents not only have to pay all of the town's $38,823 in legal bills, but they also have to contribute to nearly half the library board's $76,539 in legal fees.

"That is way too much money, and it is a shame," said Lisbon Town Chairman Matt Gehrke, who added that the town offered to settle the dispute with the village, but the village rejected the proposal.

The other half of the library's legal bills are being paid by the residents of the Sussex, who will have to bear the burden of all of the library's board future legal expenses, if the legal battles continues.

"None of this would have been necessary if the town would have simply turned the land over to the library. We have had three different lawyers give us three separate opinions that the library is entitled to that land," said Library Board President Tim Dietrich.

Dietrich, also a member of the village board, noted that Gehrke reneged on a compromise funding proposal that had been worked out by a negotiating committee that included representatives of the village and the town.

The town board voted last year to terminate the joint municipal library agreement Dec. 31 because the town and village could not reach on agreement on how to share nearly a million dollars in operating costs for the library.

Some town board members have said they also voted to terminate the agreement with the village because the library board filed the lawsuit against the town seeking "control and custody" over the Haass farmland on the northeast corner of Lake Five and Hickory roads.

History

In 1985, Haass, a farmwife and retired schoolteacher, donated $250,000 in cash and the land to the town board for library purposes. In 1988, a joint municipal library agreement was reached between the village and town and some of the funds from the Haass estate were used to implement the agreement. A new library building was constructed in 1995.

An issue over who controlled the farmland and some cash left over from the estate quietly festered between the town board and library board until 2012, when Library Director Kathy Klager reminded the library board about a state law.

According to the law, she pointed out, library boards are supposed to have "control and custody" over any assets donated for library purposes. She advised the joint municipal library board that Gehrke and the town board were threatening not to renew the joint municipal library agreement with the village.

According to Dietrich, the library board had "a fiduciary responsibility" to enforce the state law and protect the value of the farmland. In 2013, the joint municipal library board filed the lawsuit seeking control of the land.

Town officials rebutted that the joint municipal library agreement was a contract between the village and the town, and that the library board, created as a result of that agreement, had no rights to the land.

Town officials have also argued that because of the disillusionment of the joint municipal library agreement, they are entitled to a share of the library's assets which have been estimated to be about $ 3 million, according to the town's lawyer.

Village officials rebut that the town is entitled to nothing since they terminated the agreement.

The issue of whether and how the assets should be divided may have to be resolved in a trial that is tentatively set for later this year or early next year.


Lisbon, Sussex taxpayers share rising costs of legal battle of Pauline Haass Library

Posted Sussex Sun, Feb. 16, 2015

Taxpayers in the town of Lisbon and village of Sussex have paid more than $100,000 in legal fees over the last two years because of a bureaucratic squabble between elected town officials and appointed members of a library board that no longer exists over "control and custody" of about 65 acres of farmland and it appears the legal bills may keep mounting.

A newly created village library board for the Pauline Haass Public Library is scheduled to meet behind closed doors Wednesday, Feb. 18, to decide whether to continue the legal battle after a ruling three weeks ago by Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge James Kieffer.

Kieffer ruled that since the joint municipal library board went out of existence on Nov. 11, it can no longer claim it should have "control and custody" of farmland once owned by Pauline Haass.

Lawyers for both sides agree that an unanswered question is whether the newly created village library board can appeal a court ruling regarding the previous joint municipal library board.

The judge ruled that the joint municipal library board ceased to exist when the village board passed an ordinance creating a new village library board. The new library board was created, according to village officials, so the Pauline Haass Library could continue to operate after Dec. 31, 2014, when a joint funding agreement with the town of Lisbon expired.

The combined legal cost for the dispute between the Lisbon town board and joint municipal library board is estimated at $106,288 based on documents provided by public officials and lawyers in response to an open records request submitted to both government entities by Lake Country Publications.

The communities are sharing the legal expenses because of an agreement reached 27 years ago between the town and the village that created and funded the Pauline Haass Public Library, which was governed until recently by the seven-member joint municipal library board.

Town officials are particularly perturbed that their taxpayers have to pay the legal expenses of a library board that is suing the town despite the fact the town helped create the library nearly three decades ago.

Lisbon residents not only have to pay all of the town's $38,823 in legal bills, but they also have to contribute to nearly half the library board's $67,465 in legal fees.

"That is way too much money, and it is a shame," said Lisbon Town Chairman Matt Gehrke, who added that the town offered to settle the dispute with the village, but the village rejected the proposal.

The other half of the library's legal bills are being paid by the residents of the Sussex, who will have to bear the burden of all of the library's board future legal expenses, if the legal battles continues.

"None of this would have been necessary if the town would have simply turned the land over to the library. We have had three different lawyers give us three separate opinions that the library is entitled to that land," said Library Board President Tim Dietrich.

Dietrich, also a member of the village board, noted that Gehrke reneged on a compromise funding proposal that had been worked out by a negotiating committee that included representatives of the village and the town.

The town board voted last year to terminate the joint municipal library agreement Dec. 31 because the town and village could not reach on agreement on how to share nearly a million dollars in operating costs for the library.

Some town board members have said they also voted to terminate the agreement with the village because the library board filed the lawsuit against the town seeking "control and custody" over the Haass farmland on the northeast corner of Lake Five and Hickory roads.

History

In 1985, Haass, a farmwife and retired schoolteacher, donated $250,000 in cash and the land to the town board for library purposes. In 1988, a joint municipal library agreement was reached between the village and town and some of the funds from the Haass estate were used to implement the agreement. A new library building was constructed in 1995.

An issue over who controlled the farmland and some cash left over from the estate quietly festered between the town board and library board until 2012, when Library Director Kathy Klager reminded the library board about a state law.

According to the law, she pointed out, library boards are supposed to have "control and custody" over any assets donated for library purposes. She advised the joint municipal library board that Gehrke and the town board were threatening not to renew the joint municipal library agreement with the village.

According to Dietrich, the library board had "a fiduciary responsibility" to enforce the state law and protect the value of the farmland. In 2013, the joint municipal library board filed the lawsuit seeking control of the land.

Town officials rebutted that the joint municipal library agreement was a contract between the village and the town, and that the library board, created as a result of that agreement, had no rights to the land.


Key Sussex, Lisbon officials meet

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Feb. 19, 2015

Two key elected officials in the town of Lisbon and village of Sussex met privately for nearly two hours two weeks ago.

Village Trustee Tim Dietrich and Town Supervisor Joe Osterman both described their informal meeting at George Webb's near the intersection of Main Street and Highway 164 as "productive" and "positive" on Feb. 12

Both men have significant roles in their respective municipal governments.

Dietrich is also president of the library board.

Any recommendations he makes regarding the possible resolution of issues between the town, the library board, and village government have a high probability of being supported by a majority of village trustees who can ultimately determine the future of the Pauline Haass Library.

However, Dietrich is in a contest for reelection. He is one of six candidates seeking three trustee seats on the village board

Osterman is considered the presumptive future town board chairman. He is running without opposition in the April municipal elections to replace incumbent Chairman Matt Gehrke, who is not seeking reelection.

Osterman was somewhat reluctant to meet, according to Dietrich, because he has yet to be elected town chairman and did not want to disrespect incumbent Gehrke. But, Dietrich persuaded Osterman to meet with him, according to both men.

"I wanted to meet with him and get his perspective on some things before our (library board) meeting Wednesday night (Feb. 18)," he said.

"We had a chance to discuss each other's perspectives on how we got where we are on some issues. Whenever you get a chance to understand someone else's perspective, it can help provide with you some new information that might help resolve some things," added Osterman.

Both men emphasized that it was an informal meeting; no deals were discussed or decisions made.

"I don't want the media to make too much of this. It was a very informal, casual meeting to get to know each other better. If I am elected chairman, I will only have one vote on the board. If anything is going to be agreed to, it is going to require a majority (three of five votes) vote of the town board," Osterman said.

"I think the meeting accomplished exactly what was intended. It gave a couple of guys an chance to get to know each other better, listen to each other's perspective, and bounce some ideas off of each other," Dietrich said.

Dietrich, since his election in 2007, says he has placed a high priority on finding ways to end what he has described as the "Hatfield-McCoy" feuding between the governments of Lisbon and Sussex.

"The 20,000 people who live in the two communities pretty much get along. The problem is the other 12 (elected officials) people," he said

Osterman has previous extended family ties into village government. He has a personal friendship with Trustee Pat Tetzlaff and has what he describes as a good relationship with Village President Gregg Goetz.

Village officials have said they are optimistic that relationships between the two communities will improve if Osterman is elected chairman.

Gehrke, who has also been an advocate for better relations with the village, has also said he hopes Osterman can help improve relationships with the two communities.

Osterman and Dietrich said they hope to resume their discussions after the April elections.


Pauline Haass Library will sue Lisbon, again

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Feb. 20, 2015

Village of Sussex After spending more than $100,000 on legal fees, the governing board of the Pauline Haass Library and the town of Lisbon find themselves in exactly the same position they were in two years ago: in a legal, political and bureaucratic squabble over about 65 acres of farm land.

A newly created Pauline Haass village library board Feb. 18 unanimously voted to renew the claim that 65 acres of farm land donated to Lisbon by the late Pauline Haass should be in the "control and custody" of the library board because it was bequeathed to the town for library purposes.

The decision followed a nearly two-hour closed session with library lawyer David Hase who, according to Library Board President Tim Dietrich, convinced the board that another lawsuit was necessary.

Dietrich defended the board's decision, saying new legal action might prompt negotiations between the town, the village of Sussex and library officials that could resolve the dispute.

Dietrich, who is also a village trustee seeking reelection, says he plans to "reach out" to elected town officials following the April municipal elections.

In the meantime, the village library board has to exercise its option to renew the claim for the land within a court-designated deadline, according to Dietrich.

Hase has argued for the past two years that state law requires the land be turned over to the library board even though the Pauline Haass Library was created 27 years as a result of a joint agreement between the town and village of Sussex.

However, he made a similar claim on behalf of the previous Pauline Haass Joint Municipal Library, which was tossed out of court two weeks ago by a Waukesha County circuit court judge and, so far, the decision has not been appealed.

The judge ruled that the joint library board could no longer continue its lawsuit against the town because the joint library board went out of existence on Nov. 11 as a result of an ordinance adopted by the village board that created a new village library board.

Village officials have said it was essential to create a new village library board so the library could continue operations after Dec. 31 when the agreement with the town that funded and governed the library expired.

According to public documents, town of Lisbon and village of Sussex taxpayers paid a total of about $106,000 in legal fees for a court case that resolved nothing.

Town taxpayers had to help pay for lawyers in both sides of the dispute because of the agreement between the town and village of Sussex that jointly funded library operations. The town board voted last year to terminate the agreement on Dec. 31.

In this new legal battle, village taxpayers will be solely responsible for paying a portion of the library's legal bills since the village board appointed the new library board to oversee library operations.

Town residents, who now pay a county library tax, some of which is contributed to the Pauline Haass Library, will have to pay for the town's legal bills.

Town lawyer Katheryn Gutenkunst says she is a "appalled" by the amount of tax dollars that have been spent on the issue.

She said village officials knew when the agreement was reached 27 years ago that the town was going retain a portion of the Haass estate, including the land, to be used for library purposes as part of the agreement.

"If they had a problem with that, they have should have raised it back then," she said.

She added that a library board appointed by the village has "absolutely no authority" over the Haass land.

"Pauline Haass made it perfectly clear in her will that she intended that the Lisbon Town Board determine how the land was to be used for library purposes," she said.


Library board will spend more on Haass land lawsuit

Posted Living Sussex Sun, March 23, 2015

Village of Sussex The newly created Pauline Haass Village Library Board agreed Wednesday, March 18, to pay a law firm between $200 and $350 an hour to file a lawsuit against the town of Lisbon seeking "charge, control and custody" of about 65 acres of farmland donated to the town for library purposes in 1985 by the late Pauline Haass.

The library's law firm, DeWitt Ross & Stevens, has served the town with a notice of claim, which is a required first step in seeking a legal claim against a municipality in Wisconsin, according to town officials.

The town board is expected to reject the claim, which is likely to result in the law firm filing a lawsuit in Waukesha County Circuit Court.

Library Director Kathy Klager told the board that DeWitt Ross & Stevens lobbies the state Legislature on behalf of the state library association and is the most knowledgeable law firm in state library law.

Attorney David Hase of the firm also represented the Pauline Haass Joint Municipal Library Board, the predecessor to the village library board, in its unsuccessful legal bid to take control the farmland in 2013 and 2014.

Library lawyers tried to argue that any donations made for library purposes must be in the "charge, control and custody" of a library board, and the town should be required to turn the land over to the library.

However, County Circuit Court Judge James Kieffer tossed that claim out of court in February because the joint municipal library board had ceased to exist.

Kieffer ruled that joint municipal board went out of existence on Nov. 11, 2014, when the Sussex Village Board adopted an ordinance creating a new village library board because the town of Lisbon had terminated the agreement with the village that created the joint municipal library board.

The village board opted to take over operations of the library.

At just its second meeting, the newly created village library board voted to renew the lawsuit against the town.

Taxpayers in Sussex and Lisbon paid a combined approximately $106,000 in legal fees for both the library and town board, according to documents obtained by Lake Country Publications.

Taxpayers in Lisbon had to contribute to legal fees for lawyers on both sides of the dispute. They had to pay for the town's lawyers to defend against the lawsuit, which totaled about $38,500.

But they also had to help pay for the library's lawyers since, at the time, the town and village board shared operating costs of the library under to the joint municipal agreement that the town later terminated.

As of the end of year, the library board had paid DeWitt Ross& Stevens nearly $67,500 in fees directly related to the lawsuit, according to documents obtained by Lake Country Publications.

However, library officials acknowledged there was an additional $9,000 in fees related to negotiations intended to avoid the lawsuit.

The $76,000 total does not include another $6,600 in legal fees billed for January 2015, according to library documents. Sussex taxpayers will now be paying all of the library's legal fees.

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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