Terminated Prattville library director demands reinstatement, name-clearing hearing in attorney’s letter to library board

The recently terminated director at the Autauga/Prattville Library is demanding his reinstatement as director, restoration of library privileges, and a “name-clearing hearing.”

Earlier this month, the Autauga/Prattville Library Board voted to terminate then-Library Director Andrew Foster for “revealing confidential information in violation of criminal law.”

The confidential information Foster was accused of sharing involved a public records request filed with the library by the far-left website Alabama Political Reporter (APR). APR writer Jacob Holmes then used the information in an articles highlighting perceived ambiguity and confusion with the new board’s policies involving “weeding,” removing or relocating books.

The story contained information between board members and attorney Laura Clark, which Clark contends is privileged attorney/client information. Additionally, Board Chairman Ray Boles claimed Foster recorded executive sessions, which he claims violated Alabama’s Open Meetings Act (OMA) law.

After Foster’s termination, employees locked the library doors to protest Foster’s termination, threatening to do so until Foster was reinstated. Boles claims he came to the library that evening and “fired” the indignant employees. However, it is still unclear if Boles has the authority to fire employees or if the employees simply didn’t return to work.

According to the letter, the conflict arose at alleged confusion between Boles, Clark and Foster regarding Foster’s “weeding” through books and possibly relocating or removing them. The letter claims Boles was asking Foster to review over 100 books for sexually explicit material for possible relocation, while Clark asked for the books to be removed from the library’s collection.

The full letter can be found below.

Foster Lawyer letter. by Craig Monger on Scribd

“Mr. Foster was hesitant to make certain conclusions regarding the books’ compliance with the Collection Development Policy due to the vague, undefined terms contained in that policy and the lack of Board guidance,” the letter reads.

The letter claims the library board violated the Alabama Open Meetings Act on the following occasions:

· In the motion to convene an executive session, saying that the board failed to enumerate a reason for the executive session.

· By improperly deliberating on Foster’s termination before a public meeting, alleged in the fact that the board had a pre-prepared resignation letter and press release before the board voted to terminate Foster

· By discussing Foster’s job performance during the executive session, which is not permitted under OMA.

· By failing to give proper notice of the board’s follow-up meeting on March 16 to elect a new interim director.

The fourth point is likely the flimsiest since the 24-hour notice requirement does not apply to emergency meetings, with Clark claiming that was the case due to the risk of property damage after the drama at the library. Foster’s attorney contends that since the word emergency was not used in the notice or recorded conversations and the concern over property destruction was unfounded, the board violated the OMA.

“Contrary to claims by Mrs. Clark, there was no property damage or threatening behavior by the brief, peaceful protest at the library regarding Mr. Foster’s wrongful termination. In fact, the only threatening behavior occurred when Chairman Boles removed a reporter from the library and in the process opened the door into a female patron coming into the library. She called the police to report Chairman Boles’ conduct. In other words, Mrs. Clark appears to have concocted a post-hoc emergency to rationalize the Board’s clear violation of the OMA’s twenty-four-hour minimum notice requirement.”

Foster’s attorney acknowledged that library employees removed the books in question from Foster’s office and took them off library property. However, since the books were removed after the emergency meeting, the attorney claims Clark’s reasoning was invalid.

The letter also claims that the accusations that Foster released confidential information and violated OMA by recording executive sessions were categorically false and highly stigmatizing.” It further states that releasing the documents to APR and recording executive sessions was not against the law.

“Anyone reading these statements would reach the false and damaging conclusion that Mr. Foster has engaged in criminal conduct, illegally disclosed confidential documents, and disobeyed or ignored directives by the Board, thus causing great damage to Mr. Foster’s standing and association in the community and excluding him from future employment opportunities in direct violation of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the letter states.

The letter further claims that Boles violated Foster’s 14th Amendment rights by banning Foster from the premises after Foster returned to the library on the evening of his firing.

“[W]ithout formal collective Board action, in a meeting conducted subordinate to the OMA, Chairman Boles’ purported ‘ban’ of Mr. Fostering from the library premises is unjust and illegal. In other words, an individual Board member, acting alone, completely lacks authority to ban a patron from the library.

The letter claims Foster wants to avoid litigation by demanding the following three things:

1. Reinstatement to his position as library director.

2. Restore Foster’s access to the library.

3. Offer Foster a name-clearing hearing before an impartial tribunal.

“Mr. Foster seeks to resolve this dispute and to restore his good name and reputation in the community without the need to resort to costly and time-consuming litigation,” the letter concludes. “I strongly urge the Board to take advantage of this opportunity and correct the actions taken against Mr. Foster by reinstating him to his position as Library Director, restoring his access to the library, and offering him the opportunity to clear his name.”

Any citizen can file a complaint for a violation of the OMA. If the court rules against the public body, it can impose fines on members of the body of up to $1,000 or half a month’s salary, whichever is less, for each violation. The minimum fine is $1. The government body may, but is not required to, pay the legal fees of individuals who violate OMA.

If proven, the claims of 14th Amendment violations are more serious and could carry heavier financial penalties.

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