Sonoma County library commissioners decry critical report

Several Sonoma County library commissioners were critical Monday of a scathing grand jury report that called their jobs and the leadership of library director Sandra Cooper into question.

"There are some things that we should look at, but it was really one-sided," said Commissioner Tim May, the group's vice-chair and longest-serving member.

Three commissioners, including May and Chairwoman Julia Freis, said the grand jury did not contact them prior to releasing its findings on June 28.

Freis said she "disagreed" with the report's basic premise that Cooper rules by fiat with the seven-member commission going along with whatever she wants.

"We certainly do not rubber stamp everything that our director requests or presents to us," Freis said.

The grand jury report said Cooper, who was hired as director in 2005, is an "unresponsive" leader who "undermines the spirit" of the 1975 joint powers agreement that created the county's modern library system.

County supervisors grilled Cooper during a budget hearing two days before the report's release, with Supervisor Mike McGuire telling Cooper he believed she has been operating the library "like an island."

Supervisors are calling for a revision of the library's operating agreement to give them more oversight of the director's job, including possibly the power to fire her.

But all three commissioners reached Monday said Cooper has their support and they urged caution about seeking changes to the library's governance.

Commissioners are appointed by county supervisors and by city councils in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. They meet monthly and have authority over the director's job.

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