San Diego

City of Escondido Sued Over Library Privatization Plans

Opponents argued the city's decision to privatize library services violates state law

Supporters of the "Save Our Escondido Library" coalition served a lawsuit Tuesday against the city of Escondido for considering plans to privatize the public library.

On Oct. 18, the Escondido City Council voted 4-1 to create a 10-year contract with a private Maryland-based company, Library Systems and Services, to operate the city's library.

Consumer Attorney Alan Geraci will represent Roy and Mary Garrett, 48-year Escondido taxpayers, in the suit that alleges the city council's decision was improper and must be rescinded. 

City officials have argued that outsourcing the library's services will cut back on spending. Back in August, the City Manager of Escondido said up to $400,000 could be saved per year, as a result of the library's privatization.

City Attorney Michael McGuiness said the lawsuit is based on an incorrect theory about the Board of Trustee's role in managing the library and released the following statement regarding the suit:

"The lawsuit is without merit because the law does not support the interpretation Mr. Garrett assigns to the statute. Moreover, the contract terms make it clear that the Library Board, which has assigned itself an advisory role with the city, will play an integral role in the oversight of the library and will likely be more involved in decision-making than ever before."

McGuiness said the city will aggressively fight the "frivolous" lawsuit.

But Geraci said the City Council violated the education code that requires a Board of Trustees to manage the public libraries for the city.

“The privatization of government functions is a very important issue in general," Geraci explained. "And we see this issue as very important because the public library is part of the fabric of the community and needs to remain so.”

Currently, there are more than 30 city employees working for the Escondido Public Library. The move to outsource services to the library may cut back on local jobs, warned the coalition.

For months, the coalition has battled the city's plans to outsource library services. The council first approved plans to privatize the library on Aug. 23. 

Geraci said their next step will be to meet with the city attorney.

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