From American Libraries by George Eberhart | June 29, 2010
Excerpts from full article:
“…former ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano told—for the first time in its entirety, she said—about an experience she described as the worst in her professional career. It involved a Texas Ranger, a lawyer named Paco, the Patriot Act, and the Merritt Fund.
Shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001, two men came into the El Paso (Tex.) Public Library where Brey-Casiano was (and still is) director. One man, wearing a white cowboy hat and a huge belt buckle, identified himself as a Texas Ranger. He told her a threat had been sent recently from one of the library computers and demanded to see the sign-up sheets. Brey-Casiano replied that she could not release patron records without a court order and that, in any case, the sign-up sheets were shredded every night. The ranger’s sidekick began citing the USA Patriot Act as authority, but she reminded him that it was a federal law, which cannot be invoked by a state law enforcement official.
The two men left, but the next morning a court order arrived asking for specific sign-up sheets—ones that could not be handed over because they had already been shredded. The following Monday, Brey-Casiano got a call from the mayor of El Paso, who accused her of withholding information (a felony in Texas) and told her he was putting her on administrative leave. Knowing her rights, she insisted she had done nothing wrong and followed proper legal procedures. The mayor admitted it was out of his hands, since the Texas Ranger had filed the complaint. He agreed to let her stay on the job as long as she told no one about the situation—effectively a gag order—during the course of an official investigation of her actions.
She immediately called the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, which advised her to find a lawyer quickly. OIF Director Judith Krug told her she should apply for assistance from the Merritt Fund. She applied and received a grant of $1,000, which helped her pay for her lawyer, an El Paso attorney named Francisco “Paco” Domínguez.