A controversial book review committee now has six of its seven members, but residents called Mayor Nick Long’s honesty into question during the monthslong process. Long, however, said he has acted above board.

Current situation: On July 11, League City City Council approved two of three proposed Helen Hall Library board of trustee members to be part of the Community Standards Review Committee, which will be responsible for reviewing any library books residents flag as potentially inappropriate or offensive.

The two approved board members to join the committee are:
  • Mark Lardas
  • Roxann Lewis
Byram Lass, who was approved in the same meeting to join the library board, was also set to join the committee, but the council vote to appoint him failed. Long recommended all three people, but council approval was required for each to join the committee.

How we got here: Council in late February passed an ordinance approving the creation of the committee. Before council approved the ordinance, several residents protested, calling the committee government overreach and an attempt to ban books.

The committee’s final makeup will include three library board members, three residents and one chairperson who will vote only in the event of a tie. In addition to the two library board members approved July 11, the committee has four resident members council approved June 27.

Many of the same people who protested the committee’s creation also spoke against approving only four members of the board instead of all seven members at once.

What they’re saying: A few residents questioned Long’s honesty during public comment, alleging Long said June 27 no board members were interested in joining the committee. These residents said library board members had emailed Long expressing interest in joining the committee before June 27.

Long clarified what he said June 27 was he hadn’t received any applications from library board members. Long said there are ordinances in place that require applications be filled out to be considered for committees.

“Just sending an email saying you want to be on the board doesn’t mean that you expressed intent to be on the board,” he said.

Long said after the June 27 meeting, he called library board members to join the committee, and that’s when they began filling out applications. Residents, however, said Long should have replied to those initial emails from library board members and told them how to apply.

Other residents said Long is attempting to stack the committee with likeminded individuals who will vote on books the way Long wants.

Long said that’s not the case, pointing out a couple of board members he recommended for the committee disagree with him on such issues.

“It’s not about trying to find people that agreed with me. It was about trying to find people that would be fair and would do their homework,” he said. “I find this just so silly.”

Finally, a few residents said the process to make the committee has taken too long. Discussions about forming the committee began in December.

Long said the reason it’s taken seven months is because council wants to get it right. He admitted the process has been “messy” and handled “completely wrong” but said at least the process hasn’t been rushed.