In a Friday, Oct. 23 ruling by Specially Presiding Judge Ronald E. Vican of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas, the Pike County Election Board decision to grant Delaware Township’s exemption from the countywide library tax referendum was overturned, reinstating the ballot question for voters in the Township.


In a Friday, Oct. 23 ruling by Specially Presiding Judge Ronald E. Vican of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas, the Pike County Election Board decision to grant Delaware Township’s exemption from the countywide library tax referendum was overturned, reinstating the ballot question for voters in the Township.

In a press release put out by the Pike County Public Library, co-defendant in the suit along with a Delaware Township couple, the PCPL Board praised the decision, saying: “The Pike County Public Library is pleased to announce that, this afternoon, Judge Ronald E. Vican of the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County ruled that the Pike County Board of Elections’ decision to remove the library tax referendum question from the November 3 ballot in Delaware Township was wrong.

“As a result of Judge Vican’s decision, the library tax referendum will appear on the ballot countywide. The Library regrets that it became necessary to seek court protection of the rights of all Pike County citizens to vote on the library tax. Today’s ruling should in no way affect the Delaware Library Association itself. It has existed alongside the Pike County Public Library System for over 30 years and we expect it will continue to do so.”

Gail Wershing, a Delaware Township resident named plaintiff in the action, said, “I am delighted that my neighbors in Delaware and I will have the same opportunity as everyone else in Pike County to vote on this important question.”

Judge Vican’s decision supported PCPL’s position that the Delaware Township Library Association’s facility on Wilson Hill Road does not meet the criteria for a “local library” under subsection 4102 of the Library Code on the grounds that it does not serve the “informational, educational, and recreational needs of all the residents of the area for which its governing body is responsible.”

The decision goes on to cite a lack of periodical materials and trained staff as further rationale for upholding the Plaintiffs’ position.

At a hearing held Thursday, Oct. 22, the Defendants (including the Township, which joined the Commissioners as codefendants at that hearing and originally requested the exemption) claimed it was up to the County Board of Elections to determine whether the library was indeed a local library under the standard, and cited other sections of the Library Code to bolster their position.

PCPL’s goal was to seek an action “in mandamus”, which is defined in the Judge’s decision as “An extraordinary action at common law designed to compel performance of a ministerial act or mandatory duty where there exist a clear legal right in the plaintiff, a corresponding duty in the defendant, and want of any other adequate and appropriate remedy.”

Mandamus, a Latin word, literally means ‘we compel’, ‘we enjoin’, or ‘we command’, depending on which reference you refer to. In effect, it means the plaintiff in this case is seeking an injunction from a higher authority – the Court – to force the Pike County Board of Elections to put the referendum on the ballot.

The Election Board’s contention was that the decision to exempt the Township from the tax question was purely discretionary on their part, and therefore not subject to mandamus under the law. The Judge disagreed, saying in his brief “We are constrained to find any law that gives the Election Board the authority to consider this decision to be discretionary in nature. Instead, we find it appropriate to review the characteristics of the (library) Association’s facility by examining the evidence provided at the hearing.”

In examining that evidence, the judge found no cause to support the Defendants’ view, and based on testimony provided by PCPL Board President Maleyne Syracuse and Dona Wright, Delaware Township Library Association’s own Board President, found that the library does not rise to the level of a ‘local library’, and could therefore not be held as a reason to exempt the Township from the referendum or any tax that might eventually stem from it.