Books & Libraries

Controversial League City library book policy draft draws termination of city attorney

Councilman Chad Tressler said some councilmembers aimed to terminate the city attorney for early drafts of the controversial library book policy, which he referred to as a “pile of crap” on Tuesday.

Library
Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune
Books at Vandegrift High School's library on March 2, 2022.

League City councilmembers said that a Tuesday move to terminate the city attorney was fueled by a questionable first draft of a library book removal policy that caught the council in the center of controversy, and left one councilman “embarrassed” to be sitting at the dais.

That draft said residents would be allowed to challenge any books in the local library with content containing pedophilia, rape and any type of sex or nudity. It has since been changed to let anyone submit reconsiderations of any type of book to the Community Standards Review Committee, a council-appointed board that calls the final shots on those requests.

Mayor Nick Long said Tuesday that the first draft “should’ve never gotten that far.”

“It was extremely poorly written, and not a lot of good advice was given on that,” he said. “It took an extremely messy process to get to something that was extremely reasonable in the end and people had every right to be aggravated and up in arms about the first version.”

He said less political advice should’ve been given at the time that the policy was first being drafted.

With the legal aid of city attorney Nghiem Doan, councilmembers Andy Mann and Justin Hicks, who was named mayor pro-tem Tuesday, drafted the policy late last year. Both council members voted in favor of the attorney’s termination this week.

The policy gained traction around February when residents and library advocates flooded the city’s chamber halls to warn councilmembers of imminent lawsuits.

The council received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union Feb. 14 warning that various drafts of the policy, and the act of restricting certain books from the children’s section of the library come in violation of the First Amendment.

League City resident Katherine Swanson, who headed an alliance in response to the book policy dispute, said the vote should’ve been postponed until the city council has all seats filled. She is running for the council after one councilman recently resigned.

“It appears to be political retribution for what occurred during the book reconsideration resolution last December,” she said. “It isn’t appropriate to use personal grievances and a position of power to affect someone’s job. The first draft of last year’s ordinance was upsetting to many and not well done. This was of no fault of the city attorney.”

Swanson said there was no way to write legally sound wording for an unconstitutional law.

Councilman Chad Tressler said the move to terminate the city attorney will end up costing the city “a couple hundred thousand dollars” as a result.

“This is a move to terminate our city attorney that for at least some of the folks that are going to vote in favor of it, was a response to their own shortcomings and their inability to draft the book ban resolution that they attempted to pass that ended up being just a creation of a committee to consider reconsiderations and books and their location in the library.

“Their disappointment is that the language as initially presented embarrassed them and the city. Unfortunately, that’s because they started with a pile of crap and you can only polish a turd so much,” he said.