SL County Library comes under fire for support of Utah Pride

Salt Lake County Council Chair Steve DeBry, who last month was the lone councilperson to vote against a mutual-commitment registry, is questioning the legality of a team of Salt Lake County Library staffers who participated in the Utah Pride earlier this month. Salt Lake Tribune columnist Paul Rolly reported that DeBry’s administrative assistant, Bryan Maxwell, spoke with a deputy Salt Lake County district attorney about the issue, and was told there didn’t appear to be a violation.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill noted that no official request for a decision has yet reached his desk but, “Our initial take is that it is not a partisan event and does not constitute a political agency.”

“County agencies have participated in multiple events to promote a service and do community outreach,” Gill told Rolly.

Salt Lake County Library Services staffers, bedecked in blue library T-shirts, walked with a banner in the parade with the county library’s logo and a statement of support for the parade’s theme of equality: “Salt Lake County Library Staff supports equality for all.” They also staffed a booth on the Festival grounds.

Some fans of the library system’s Facebook Page complained about a photo showing the staffers at the parade, and Greg Near, public relations coordinator for the library, thanked the commentators, and said, “Our [Facebook] timeline obviously isn’t an effective forum for an extensive debate – but we want everyone to know you’ve been heard. Yes, budgets for county agencies do sometimes include items like t-shirts & banners for a variety of outreach events, including this one. If anyone has concerns about county budgets, I would encourage you to attend county council meetings and library board meetings. They always include time for public feedback in the agendas. A dialogue is always a good thing, and all of us at the library appreciate hearing from our patrons.”

Apparently at least one patron took Near’s advice to heart.

DeBry said he was acting on the concerns of a constituent who asked whether the Utah Pride Parade was a partisan political event, which the county is prohibited from endorsing.

“I would have the same question of any event the county is involved in, including the Celebration of Marriage conference,” DeBry told Rolly.

Library Services Director Jim Cooper said he has heard no complaints about participation in any of the other three dozen events library staffers have attended in the past year, and this is the first time there was a complaint about the Utah Pride Parade, which the library staffers have participated in for the past three years.

Librarian Cynthia Hinckley noted on the library’s Facebook page, “The library system does many many outreach events. UEA, Scout-A-Rama, Senior Expo as well as storytimes at the homeless shelter and local community centers. We would like every single person in Salt Lake County to feel welcome at the library and use our resources. We serve the entire county and feel proud to be able to do so.”

Other events include the Days of ’47 Parade, the Hispanic Fiesta, the Asian Festival, the Girl Scout Cookie parties, the Safe Kids Fair and the Spanish Small Business Conference.

Other Salt Lake County organizations represented at Utah Pride included the Salt Lake County Animal Services, Salt Lake County Youth Services, Salt Lake County Health Services and members of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Department.

Since posting the staffers’ participation in Pride, the library’s Facebook Page has lost 800 fans.

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