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Read Freely Alabama questions John Wahl’s “conflict of interest”

Wahl is listed as a speaker at a Clean Up Alabama roundtable on “ending the sexualization of children in libraries.”

ALGOP Chairman John Wahl Facebook/John Wahl

In addition to his duties as chair of the Alabama Republican Party, John Wahl also serves as the District 5 representative on the Alabama Public Library Service executive board.

Read Freely Alabama, a statewide group that grew out of opposition to the recent spate of book challenges, sent out an open letter late last week  to the APLS board criticizing Wahl for having a “conflict of interest” between his duties.

“Read Freely Alabama is greatly concerned about the ongoing public comments and speaking appearances of APLS Board of Directors member John Wahl,” the group wrote. “In the past few weeks, he has publicly spread misinformation about Alabama library collections and suggested revising laws that would allow for prosecution and imprisonment of librarians.”

Wahl discussed removing a criminal exemption for libraries and librarians last week during an appearance on the Jeff Poor Show. Jeff Poor is editor-in-chief of 1819 News.

RFA also criticized Wahl’s participation in an upcoming roundtable event hosted by Clean Up Alabama entitled “Fighting to end the sexualization of children in Alabama libraries.” Wahl and 1819 News president Bryan Dawson are listed as special guests. A digital flier for the event specifically notes Wahl as an APLS board member rather than his role as ALGOP chair.

“While we support Wahl’s right to possess his personal views and beliefs, Read Freely Alabama cannot fathom why Wahl, in his capacity of APLS Board of Directors member, is publicly aligning himself, and by extension, all APLS Board of Directors members and employees, with Clean Up Alabama,” RFA continued in its letter. “We suspect that Mr. Wahl is intentionally abusing his authority as a member of the APLS Board of Directors to enhance his political reputation and consolidate his power over the Alabama GOP.”

When APR contacted Wahl for comment on this story, he said he had not yet read the letter, and APR provided Wahl with a link to the letter. Wahl did not respond to the letter before publishing time.

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The letter points to a portion of the APLS Board of Directors’ webpage, which lists advocating for Alabama’s public libraries and continued state funding as one of the board’s goals.

“Mr. Wahl is doing the exact opposite by actively aligning himself with Clean Up Alabama,” Read Freely said in its letter. “The Board cannot allow this to continue.”

RFA is calling on the APLS Board of Directors to take the following actions:

  • Publicly explain to what extent the Board of Directors knew of John Wahl speaking as an APLS representative at a Clean Up Alabama event. If you had pre-knowledge, publicly explain why the Board is allowing him to speak on the agency’s behalf.

  • Publicly restrict John Wahl, in his capacity as an APLS Board of Director member, from speaking at any and all Clean Up Alabama event(s). Request that this event’s marketing and promotional materials clarify that John Wahl is not speaking as a board member.

  • Launch an investigation into John Wahl’s possible conflict of interests, and/or abuses of power regarding his position as ALGOP chair and his membership on the APLS Board of Directors

State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, recently told Yellowhammer News that he expects libraries will lose state funding if the APLS does not dissociate from the American Library Association — a goal that has been publicly called for by Clean Up Alabama.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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