BRENTWOOD, Tenn. - A disagreement over whether Brentwood's Library can be used as an early voting venue in February has sparked a power struggle, and even a lawsuit, between the Williamson County Election Commission and the City of Brentwood.
"They're saying they have a legal right to basically commandeer our library, and we're saying they have not interpreted that law correctly," said Brentwood City Manager, Mike Walker.
He said the county contacted the city in November of 2011 and expressed interest in holding early voting at the library from February 22nd-28th, 2012.
Walker said he turned down the request because the library meeting rooms were already booked for those particular dates.
"We tried to give them alternatives, but they are adamant they are going to take over our library," he said.
Library Director Susan Earl provided NewsChannel 5 with a closer look at the facility's schedule.
"We have community groups like stitching for charity, we have boy scouts, the chamber uses us, just a wide variety of people," she said. "And knowing that is what we give to our community and that's the standard they expect from us, it would be a disrespect to the community to take that away. It's as simple as that."
Walker said he was stunned when a lawsuit landed on his desk shortly after the city turned down the county's request.
"This is clearly a waste of taxpayer resources, to have to spend money to defend a suit, where there's clearly alternatives for them to use. They just want to have the pretty library for their elections, in my opinion," he said.
The lawsuit states that Tennessee State Law requires government entities to comply with requests such as this one.
An attorney for the William County Election Commission released this statement to News Channel 5:
"The Brentwood Library is a public library supported by taxes and we feel it is an appropriate location for use as a polling location. Any government entity is required to make itself available for use as a polling location. We are seeking the court's determination on that issue."
A judge will weigh in on the issue on January 19th. If the County Election Commission wins this lawsuit, Walker said the library will have no choice but to cancel dozens of pre-scheduled events.
That includes its Summer Reading Program and two book sales held by Friends of the Library, which are the facility's two biggest fundraiser's of the year.
Mike Walker estimates the City of Brentwood will spend nearly $30,000 in taxpayer money to fight this lawsuit.
The Williamson County Election Commission declined our requests for an on-camera interview.