Open letter to King County Council and Executive Director Dow Constantine

In March of 2011 a 77-year-old man was assaulted in the Woodmont Library parking lot, on Pacific Highway South in Des Moines. Police viewed the library surveillance camera footage, and within 15 minutes of viewing had apprehended the alleged assailant. Library management had denied police access to the cam archives, only after police obtained a court order did the library allow police to view the footage. 

In response to that court order and police access to library camera footage, King County Library Director Bill Ptacek decreed that all library surveillance cameras be disabled.

I am a resident of King County (Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle), a supporter of the city and county libraries who wishes these libraries ever more expansion of services, but regret that I will oppose all funding sources for the King County Library System till these conditions are met:
  1. Bill Ptacek is terminated from his current position as Director of King County Library System, and not hired for any position within King County government.
  2. An evaluation of King County Library System upper management, put on public record and accessible via the county website,pledging the following: a) public safety is a top priority, b) cooperation with police investigations when a crime has occurred on library premises, and c) not willfully disable surveillance equipment      
I am part of a Facebook group "Fire Bill Ptacek Director of King County Library System", we will be watching county websites for indications our demands have been met. When tax levy's are put to ballot that in any way fund the King County Library System, our votes for that levy will hinge on whether Mr. Ptacek still has a job with King County. 

My previous voting record has been near unanimous support of tax levy's that enable our region's usually high preforming government services. I am leading this campaign against government funding solely in relation to Mr. Ptacek's undervaluing of public safety, perverse definition of privacy, and misuse of public funds and policy to implement an extremist ideology. 

Lance Miller ( ) May 25, 2011
Seattle WA 

Below is a reply from office of the Executive Director of King County, Dow Constantine. It is very respectful, intelligent, and actually helps pinpoint who has a say in how the King County Library System is funded.

Dear Mr. Miller:


Thank you for your e-mail to the Executive regarding King County Library System Bill Ptacek and your unhappiness with his recent actions to remove surveillance cameras in KCLS facilities.


The King County Library System is established as a rural library district under state law (RCW 27.12). The KCLS is governed by a five-member Board of Trustees, which is empowered to make decisions about library policy, hire and fire the system’s Executive Director, and to assess a property tax levy on citizens who are served by the library system. Like many other public corporations established under state law (the King County Housing Authority is one obvious example), members of the KCLS Board of Trustees are appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council.


However, the Executive and Council have no direct day-to-day control over the library system or how its funds are spent. The assets of the library system (including library facilities) are also not the property of King County.


Currently, KCLS serves unincorporated King County residents and the majority of King County cities (Seattle and some larger cities maintain their own city library systems). Individual cities can join the KCLS or opt out as they see fit. The library system is funded by a tax levy on people who live in unincorporated King County and in KCLS-member cities. As a resident of Seattle, you do not pay for KCLS as Seattle provides its own library services, which are paid for from the city’s general fund.


Thank you again for writing.


James Bush

Communications Specialist

for King County Executive Dow Constantine

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