LF Council accepts pencil drawing years after it was gifted

Despite attorney’s warning, pencil drawing will once again hang in Carnegie Library

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
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A pencil sketch donated to the Carnegie Library in Little Falls several years ago by Corey Schilling, was taken down when someone complained about the sign hanging in a public building, since the wording carries religious connotations. However, the Council formally accepted the gift Monday on a 5-3 vote. The drawing will hang in the Carnegie Library as requested by Schilling.

Monday night, on a 5-3 vote, the Little Falls City Council formally accepted a gift given to the city more than three years ago. The Council also honored the request of the artist, Corey Schilling, to hang his drawing, “Creation of Man 08” in the Carnegie Library in Little Falls.

In mid-April, someone contacted Little Falls City Hall to complain about the drawing that had hung in the Carnegie Library in Little Falls since 2008 or 2009. Schilling, a jail inmate at the time, gave it to the library out of gratitude for being provided books to read.

The complainant said the drawing had religious connotations and didn’t belong in a public building.

Co-city Administrator Lori Kasella told the Council Monday, that the individual who complained, said they had talked to the Civil Liberties Union, wanting to know how to get the picture removed.

Kasella and Co-city Administrator Jerry Lochner decided to remove the drawing until the matter was reviewed by the city attorney.

Being busy with the Council over the city’s sign ordinance, staff put the matter on hold and did not bring it before the Council at the time.

The Council didn’t learn of the issue until Echo Kowalzek, a board member of the Friends of the Little Falls Library, wrote a letter to the editor, published in the May 6 issue of the Morrison County Record.

Kowalzek wrote the letter when the Friends were told the drawing had been removed. Since the Friends group had paid to have the drawing matted and framed, members wanted to know what was going to happen with the drawing.

Kasella said the drawing was donated to the library, which is city property, therefore the drawing is also city property.

It was also found that when the gift was made the Council at the time had not formally accepted the gift.

City Attorney, Toni Wetzel, when asked by Council Member Don Klinker what her opinion was, said, “You don’t have to accept the gift.”

She cautioned if the Council accepted the gift and had it hung in the library, “You’re exposing yourself to a possible claim.”

The kinds of claims she emphasized were those such as the removal of the 10 Commandments displayed near southern courthouses and Santa Claus displayed on government property on the West Coast.

“Those types of litigations are constitutional in nature and can become extremely and ungodly expensive for you,” she said.

Wetzel said even if the individual undertaking the claim received just $1 in damages, the city would be paying not only its own lawyers, but that individual’s lawyers as well.

“To me that’s a ridiculous risk to incur regardless,” said Wetzel. “At this point in time, most certainly, you may want to look at this and batten down the hatches,” she said, noting the city is dealing with its second lawsuit within a year.

“I just don’t think you need this type of exposure at this juncture, I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” said Wetzel, adding the Council certainly had the right to accept the gift.

Voting to accept the drawing as a gift to the city and to hang it in Carnegie Library were Council Members Loren Boyum, LeeAnn Doucette, Urban Otremba, Brian-Paul Crowder and Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem.

Voting not to accept the gift were Council Members Klinker, Jeremy Hanfler and Frank Gosiak.

The drawing depicts two hands reaching out to each other.

A verse reads,“With a simple touch, the Lord created Adam, beginning the chain of creation of us all. With a simple touch of your generous hearts, you have begun a chain of positive changes in the hearts, minds and lives of many and those whose lives they touch. With our hearts, we thank you.”