Campbell County Commission not allowing public comment on library issues

GILLETTE  –- The Campbell County Commission will no longer be taking public comment relating to the Campbell County Public Library.

For the last three months, commissioners have listened to hours of public comment at their meetings from residents about the library, in particular with the teen and children’s sections containing books that deal with sex and LGBTQ+ issues.

The commissioners also have had two joint public meetings with the library board to address the topic.

On Friday, the county posted the agenda for Tuesday’s regular meeting, and while the public comment section is scheduled for 9:40 a.m., it includes a note saying “Public comment will not be taken on the Library and the issues that have arisen surrounding the Library.”

Commission Chairman Bob Maul wrote a letter explaining the decision. He said he recognizes that it is an important issue for the community, but that people must trust the process.

“The library is engaged in its book challenge process and although some may be displeased with the length of time required in completing this process, this process must be allowed to proceed to completion,” Maul wrote.

Maul was the only commissioner to sign the letter, which did not state when public comment on the library would be allowed again.

It is the second change the commissioners have made to their meetings in response to the library discussion.

Several weeks ago, they had moved the public comment period to the end of their meetings to allow them to conduct their regular business before moving on to public comment. Their meetings were attracting dozens of attendees, and the public comment period would usually last close to an hour.

Maul’s letter was shared on the county’s Facebook page.

“Thank you! This should have came out months ago but thank you for taking the stage away from the political theatre! Great move to help bring our community together!” commented Matt Heath.

Local pastor Scott Clem said he found the situation ironic. He wrote that when a group of people wants the library to “move sexualized perverted adult materials ... out of the children’s section and into the adult section,” it’s called censorship.

“And now in a twist of irony, the same ‘no censorship’ crowd is applauding the county Gov’t as it actually tries to censor the public, telling the public that they can’t speak on the county library during the ‘general public comment’ section at public meetings. You can’t make this stuff up,” he wrote.

Calls to Maul were not returned as of press time Monday.