Board Liability

The legal power of the library Board derives from the Board's actions as a body. Because these actions are subject to public scrutiny-and can be challenged in court-you and the other members of your Board need to be well informed and make decisions based on sound judgment.

There are several major areas in which Board liability may be incurred:

Acts in excess of authority: for example, inappropriate expenditures or exceeding budget spending levels.

Failure to act when action should have been taken: for example, failure to get needed copyright clearances or failure to meet contractual obligations.

Negligence: for example, unsafe buildings and grounds, failure to supervise funds, loss due to depositing funds over the maximum amount insured, etc.

Intentional misconduct: for example, libel, assault, improper discharging of an employee, theft, etc.

Acts in violation of the law: for example, improper reimbursement to trustees and employees, authorizing payment of improper expenses, purchasing certain property without obtaining bids, failing to follow proper rules for hiring, acting on an issue when there is conflict of interest, etc.

The library board should check with their city or county attorney or their insurance carrier to confirm lack of liability. In most cases there is no personal liability for trustees with the exception of criminal conduct, failure to cooperate in the defense, or settlement of a claim without the consent of the governmental entity employer.