Kentucky Lawmaker Threatens Libraries Over Opponent's Events

Oct 22, 2018

Kentucky Sen. Tom Buford
Credit Kentucky LRC Media Relations

A Kentucky state senator threatened local libraries after becoming upset that his opponent was using their public meeting spaces for teacher forums.

State Sen. Tom Buford told the Lexington Herald-Leader he believes it is wrong for political events to be held in public buildings.

"I explained to (the librarians) I have been a very good friend of libraries and I did not think this was a very good use of public funds," the Nicholasville Republican told the paper. "To me, it was unethical."

The heads of the Garrard and Jessamine County libraries both said Buford called and accused them of endorsing his Democratic opponent, Carolyn Dupont.

"Basically, he said if the event was held here, he couldn't continue to support the library," said Laura McWilliams, director of the Garrard County Public Library. "I was taken aback. It's not that we're being partisan. We're not. This is a community space."

Ron Critchfield is executive director of the Jessamine County Public Library. He said he told Buford that anyone can book an available room for any legal purpose, including the senator himself.

Buford then said he would support legislation opposed by the libraries that would require their board members to either be elected or appointed by elected officials.

Critchfield said he hopes Buford was just angry and not serious.

"Human beings, you know, they get upset," Critchfield said. "Right now, I'm taking it in the most innocuous manner."

On Friday, Buford, who has served in the Senate since 1991, said he has no plans to punish the libraries when the 2019 General Assembly convenes in January.

Dupont, who is an American history professor at Eastern Kentucky University, said Friday that she had been unaware of Buford's calls to the libraries.

"These are public spaces available to anyone," she told the paper. "The libraries didn't promote my events in any way. ... So the fact that he was threatening them if they didn't cancel them is disappointing."