An unplanned motion on Tuesday by Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R) to return almost $2,500 to the St. Mary’s County Library after a private drag queen story hour event held there in June was tabled by the board.
Hewitt made the motion after acknowledging potential legal action against the county from the state attorney general’s office.
“We don’t know what’s gonna happen with the attorney general, but the tea leaves tend to read that they will take action against us, or they may get involved in a suit against us,” Hewitt said before proposing to reverse the commissioners’ budget amendment.
The commissioners decided in July to retroactively move nearly $2,500 from the St. Mary’s County Library budget to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office to pay for security associated with 16 deputies during a private drag queen story hour event for children held at the Lexington Park library. That vote drew ire from some in the community who said the move equated to fining the library system for upholding its own meeting room guidelines, and prompted an inquiry from the office of Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) into a potential First Amendment rights violation.
At that time, Hewitt voted against the initial motion, which was made by Commissioner John O’Connor (R) and supported by the rest of the board.
On Tuesday, Hewitt made a motion to “not adjust the library and sheriff’s office budgets” to move the funding. After the meeting, he said the motion was predicated “on the advice of our counsel.”
During the meeting, Hewitt also noted the threat of a lawsuit being filed by the Washington Area Secular Humanists, or WASH. An arm of that nonprofit atheist group, the Southern Maryland Secular Humanists, was a cosponsor of the drag queen story hour event, along with PFLAG of Leonardtown.
The event on June 23 featured two men dressed in drag who read to an audience of children and adults who had preregistered. A 42-year-old Leonardtown man was arrested after charging into the event and causing a disturbance. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail earlier this month after pleading guilty to trespassing.
Last month, WASH submitted a letter to the St. Mary’s commissioners objecting to the board’s decision to partially defund the library after the event.
Commissioner President Randy Guy (R) requested to table the motion until the full commissioner board was present, since O’Connor was absent Tuesday.
“We need all five people at the table,” Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said.
After the meeting, the county’s attorney, David Weiskopf, said conversations with the attorney general’s office about the event and the subsequent action taken by the commissioner board were ongoing.