A Lafayette Public Library librarian was almost fired for a book exhibition

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A Lafayette Public Library worker survived an attempt by members of the library’s board of control to fire her on Monday. But the council voted to make efforts to discipline her next month.

Northern Regional Library branch manager Cara Chance was accused of an ‘act of unquestionable insubordination’ by council chairman Robert Judge at Monday’s meeting, before the judge decided to fire her immediately with a second from council member Stephanie Armbruster.

Chance has regularly criticized the the measures taken by the council to strengthen its power and allow censorship at its public meetings. That’s to say protected speech for which civil servants cannot be dismissed.

Her lawyer, Robert Schmidt, said the judge’s allegation at the meeting was the first she had heard of “any alleged insubordination”.

“The first time Ms. Chance was made aware of alleged insubordination was here, in this room, in front of everyone. She received no kind of advance notice of the action that was proposed or the misconduct she was accused of committing,” Schmidt said.

“As a civil servant. Prior to her dismissal, she has the right to be informed of the charges against her and to have the opportunity to defend herself against them.

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The judge argued that Chance “willfully defied” library director Danny Gillane’s directive banning book exhibits focused on specific populations by creating an LGBTQ exhibit at the Northern Regional Library branch in June.

Lafayette Public Library Board of Control Chairman Robert Judge at a board meeting Monday, July 25, 2022.

The posting appears to be in line with Gillane’s guideline of focusing on teen romance novels, including titles with LGBTQ relationships. To present only heterosexual romance novels could have violated the ban on highlighting specific populations.

“It’s not about neutrality. It’s actually about erasing all facets of LGBTQ representation from our government, and you should be ashamed of yourselves,” Speaker Jared Eubanks told the council on Monday. administration.

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The judge claimed at Monday’s meeting that Gillane recused himself from disciplining Chance over a separate personnel matter and left the matter to the board. Gillane was on vacation and not at the meeting.

But board member Shane Landers said he received an email from Gillane an hour before the session started saying he would prefer the board not take any employment-related action. luck.

“I want to leave all decision-making to the manager,” said Landers, who is a protected local government civil servant like Chance. “Even if the council – in quotes – has the power to make this decision, I think it sets a very dangerous precedent.”

This sentiment was echoed by board member David Pitre, who said that Gillane’s absence and the lack of any prior disciplinary proceedings made him uneasy about firing Chance, although he also spoke out against his alleged “insubordination”.

“I would be much more comfortable with this whole process so that we have the chance to meet Mr. Gillane in executive session when he returns. I really feel like we need to have the due process component. It’s an important decision,” Pitre said.

“I want to complete what I say by reiterating that I have no patience with insubordination… However, I absolutely believe in systematic due process.”

After hearing from a few citizens in the crowded meeting room of the Southern Regional Library, the council voted to postpone the matter until its August meeting, the time and place of which have yet to be set. .

But former Lafayette Parish School Board member Mary Lib Guercio criticized the decision.

“The decision to file or not to file reflects extremely poor decision-making by the board,” Guercio said. “There is a process and there is a regular procedure that employees must follow. No one should be summarily disciplined and fired from their jobs without going through a system of due process. »

The board also voted after an executive session on Monday to continue employing Gillane as library manager as part of its annual review. Gillane is not a protected public service employee.

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