My Northern Wisconsin

Covering Ashland, Iron, Lincoln, Oneida, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, and Vilas Counties



At the January 17, 2023 city meeting, Marc Peterson and Galen Azbell were on the agenda to be approved as library board members.  However, there may be a conflict of interest with one of the current, not yet formally approved library board members.

The school's superintendent has a required seat on the board, but he can suggest a proxy to sit in his place.  Superintendent Morgan recently suggested Marc Peterson to be his proxy.  It was just a formality that the mayor needed to formally appoint Marc.

Galen Azbell has sat on the library board for over four years.  Library Director Becky Puhl explained that about four years ago he moved back to the area.  Since he grew up in Phillips, she said they thought he would be a good fit, and he agreed to accept the board position.  However, he was never formally approved by the mayor.

During the meeting, Mayor Peterson was ready to approve both of them when Jerry Clark, alderperson, mentioned that something had been brought to his attention.  He stated there was possibly a conflict of interest because Galen's mother, Evelyn, is employed at the library.  She became employed after Galen began his time on the library board.

Jerry Clark said, "In correspondence with the regional director, [John Thompson], it was pointed out that, you know, it's not appropriate to have a family member on the board and also working at the library."

Library Director Puhl pointed out that Bruce Marshall, former city attorney, and Bryce Schoenborn, acting city attorney, said everything was fine as long as Galen doesn't vote on the budget.

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Jerry continued that Regional Director Thompson believes it is an ethics violation since board members set the wages for employees.  "If they were members of the same household, it could be a conflict."

Mayor Peterson replied, "If Bruce and them say it is okay as long as he is not voting on any wage differential," then he didn't feel he should be taken off the board.

Jenny Markle, a library board member, stated that Galen did abstain from the last vote on the budget but did not give a reason why he was abstaining.

Alderperson Bill Elliott asked, "Is there a waiting list to get on this board?"

Director Puhl stated, "There are a list of options.  The interest in the library board is not consistent."  She said that, historically, they have had a more difficult time getting board members but there has been an increased interest in the recent past.  Currently, there are about twenty people on a waiting list to sit as library board members.

Bill Elliott added that if there are twenty people without conflicts, there might be better options.

Mayor Peterson stated that, in the past year or two, "There's a lot of stuff going on with the library board."  He added that he will talk to Bruce Marshall, attorney and library board member, to see what can and cannot be done.  He decided to "leave him on as is" until further discussions with Bruce and Bryce.  Mayor Peterson further stated, "Galen will be appointed, but let's....okay, alright...."  His thought trailed off, but it was left that further information was needed to see how Galen could sit on the board without creating a conflict of interest.

In related news, at the county executive meeting on February 9, 2023, the executive committee voted to appoint additional county members to the Phillips Library Board with a vote of 3-2.  This will be sent to the full board on Tuesday, February 21, 2023 so they can make a decision.

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(This post was last modified: 02-14-2023, 02:31 AM by My Northern Wisconsin.)