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Prattville Library Board member resigns over new policies, potential “secret meetings”

Christie Sellers said the policies “evoke blatant censorship.”

To do list reminder to read a banned book, along with a pile of books frequently on censorship lists.

Christie Sellers has ended her time on the Autauga-Prattville Public Library board just more than two months after being appointed.

In a letter of resignation Sellers sent to The Post Thursday, she cited the new policies the board planned to adopt and the potential that the board was holding “secret meetings” as reasons for her departure.

“This resignation comes in response to the disconcerting and troubling developments within the current board’s actions and decisions,” Sellers wrote. “As a dedicated member of the community who wished to serve on the board with enthusiasm and commitment, I can no longer align myself with an institution that blatantly disregards the principles of free speech, engages in censorship, and perpetuates discrimination within its proposed policy changes.

“Proposed policy changes to be presented at the February 8 meeting, include language that will undermine the First Amendment rights within the library and are deeply troubling. The library should be a sanctuary for intellectual and literary freedom, providing diverse perspectives and ideas that equally represent a cross-section of the population and not a single-minded posture based on a political agenda. Unfortunately, it appears that the current board is veering away from this fundamental principle, favoring a course of action that compromises the very essence of these democratic values.”

The library board unanimously voted Thursday night in favor of prohibiting the library from purchasing materials aimed at minors under 17 that contain LGBTQ content as well as “sexual content.”

Sellers said the policies “evoke blatant censorship of certain books within our current library collection.”

“Equally disheartening is the evident discrimination against a minority people group,” Sellers wrote. “As a board member, it is disconcerting to witness actions that contribute to the marginalization of any community within our constituency. We must serve the entire community without bias, and I find it unconscionable to be associated with a board that engages in such discriminatory practices. I cannot align myself, even with a dissenting vote, with the pervasive ideologies that are evidenced by a subcommittee’s recommendations.”

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In an email obtained by The Post, Sellers voiced her concerns about the policy changes, but Chairman Ray Boles assured her that “we have hired a Constitutional attorney” and that the policy “would hold up in a court of law.”

The board hired Laura Clark, interim president of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty, Thursday night at a rate of $200 per hour, a day after Boles told Sellers that “we” had hired an attorney.

Boles said he retained Clark in part to prevent him from violating Alabama’s Open Meeting Act, which he acknowledged he mistakenly violated during a meeting on Jan. 5 by improperly entering and exiting an executive session.

However, Sellers voiced concerns that the library board has continued to violate the Open Meetings Act as the board appeared to be having “secret meetings.”

“It has come to my attention that certain decisions and actions were potentially predetermined in secret meetings without the full knowledge or consent of the entire board,” Sellers wrote. “The essence of transparent governance requires open and inclusive discussions, and it is disconcerting to discover that critical decisions impacting the library board’s leadership, the library employees, the board’s integrity, and community relations may have been made outside the established channels. Such clandestine actions, if they did take place, undermine the democratic principles upon which our board is founded and erode the trust of the community we are duty-bound to serve.”

Sellers told The Post that she has not seen any direct evidence of any secret meetings, but said the board has created that appearance based on its lack of discussion in board settings.

“At our very first meeting to appoint officers, the whole slate of officers was decided and voted on in just a couple of minutes,” Sellers said. “It seemed everyone knew who was supposed to speak, and what name for what office. The four individuals chosen by the county were also chosen to fill all officer positions.”

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In addition to the violation Boles referenced regarding the improper executive session, numerous other instances of potential Open Meetings Act violations were also raised during the library’s board meeting including that the board seems to have decided on nominees for board appointees within that executive session.

The Prattville City Council will now once again be tasked with appointing a new member to the board.

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

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