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Library lawsuit defendants withholding documents, plaintiffs claim

Llano County Library in Llano, Texas

The Llano County Library, part of the three-library system in the county. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit involving the Llano County Library System are asking a district court judge to compel the defendants to produce documents they have been withholding for the past six months despite repeated assurances they were complying with all discovery requests. 

In the case of Little Green et. al. v. Llano County et. al., the plaintiffs are also seeking reimbursement by Llano County for expenses accrued in continually having to seek discovery as well as permission to re-depose defendants based on information gleaned from the documents once received. 

The costs of conducting a second round of depositions should also be borne by the defendants, according to a Motion to Compel Discovery Responses filed Dec. 16 in U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, Austin Division. 

“Defendants appear to have intentionally withheld critical documents that should have been presented to the court at the evidentiary hearing on plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction,” reads the first paragraph of the motion to compel. 

The plaintiffs in the case are Llano County residents Leila Green Little, Jeanne Puryear, Kathy Kennedy, Rebecca Jones, Richard Day, Cynthia Waring, and Diane Moster. 

The defendants are Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham; commissioners Jerry Don Moss, Peter Jones, Mike Sandoval, and Linda Raschke; Llano County Library System Director Amber Milum; and Llano County Library Advisory Board members Bonnie Wallace, Rochelle Wells, Rhonda Schneider, and Gay Baskin. Other members of the board were not named in the suit. 

Judge Robert Pitman heard two days of testimony on Oct. 28 and Oct. 31 in the case and is expected to rule on a request for a preliminary injunction sometime after the first of the year. The injunction seeks to have at least 12 books that were removed from Llano County’s three libraries returned to the shelves and the system’s digital catalog. A jury trial is set for Oct. 23, 2023.

According to the most recent motion filed, the motion to compel discovery, the defendants admitted after the hearing that they did not search for the documents requested in the first set of requests for proposals and that the documents turned over for the second request were deficient. 

“The evidence defendants are withholding is critical and should have been used in depositions and presented to the court at the (preliminary injunction) hearing (in October),” the motion to compel continues. “These missing communications go to the core issue in plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction motion: defendants’ intent when removing books from the library.” 

The lawsuit claims Llano County officials removed books based on their personal beliefs, violating library patrons’ First and 14th amendment rights. Books removed include one meant for adults that calls the Ku Klux Klan a domestic terrorist group, another for adolescents about going through puberty along with several that deal with gender identity, and children’s books that joke about farting and butts.

The defendants testified that the books were pulled to protect children from inappropriate material.

Documents sought include all emails on the librarians’ Yahoo! accounts as well as emails and all attachments that pertain to the issue from the defendants. Llano County librarians use Yahoo! as their work emails. 

“To date, the individual defendants have not provided responses or objections to plaintiffs’ second set of discovery, nor have they produced any documents,” the motion to compel continues. 

The documents that were handed over do not comply with agreed-upon formats, making them unsearchable, the plaintiffs said. Also, any attachments sent were not properly linked to the home emails, so they can’t be matched. 

The plaintiffs are asking the judge to grant the order with a two-week time limit on implementation.

Calls to Llano County Attorney Dwain Rogers and Assistant County Attorney Matthew Rienstra for comment were not returned by deadline. 

suzanne@thepicayune.com