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Opinion | The answers to Prattville’s problems are in the books they just banned

The ruler of Prattville’s tiny library kingdom proved his authority Thursday — and that the community really, really needs those books.

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Beware the rulers of tiny kingdoms. 

For the life of me I can’t remember where I read that warning. Probably in a book – likely one of the dozens banned by the all new Autauga-Prattville Library Board and its tiniest of tiny rulers, Ray Boles. 

Or maybe someone just said it in reference to Boles, and his authoritarian rule over the Autauga-Prattville Library. 

It certainly fits. 

On Thursday evening, in a meeting that almost certainly violates the Alabama Open Meetings Act, Boles and his board went into executive session for the entire meeting and fired library director Andrew Foster – a move that almost certainly violates a number of laws. 

That the board and Boles potentially violated laws on Thursday shouldn’t come as a surprise. They’ve admitted to a number of violations of the Open Meetings Act and APR has reported on numerous other violations that they haven’t admitted to. 

At Thursday’s meeting, Boles allegedly told Foster that he was being terminated for violating “federal laws.” Exactly what “federal laws” a county library director could violate without being, you know, arrested by someone is unclear. 

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Foster attempted to find out during the meeting what he had done, but Boles and others, including the board’s $200-per-hour attorney who doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on the law either, refused to tell him. When Foster attempted to record the meeting, he was told that, too, is a violation of federal laws. 

It’s not. It’s not even a violation of state law, local law or library policy. 

But Boles and the Library Nazis tend to just make things up as they go. Which is how Thursday’s meeting came about in the first place. 

Boles and one of his minions, vice-chair Rachel Daniels, crafted a list of books they wanted to be burned … oops, sorry, not burned, just banned. So, maybe burned. But out of the library. 

Or, maybe not. The Library Nazis have been rather unclear on that point – whether they want a list of more than 100 books – one of which just describes rainbows, because, you know, they’re gay, I guess – to be moved around within the library or completely removed from the library. Also, the Library Nazis have been rather unclear on the process for this book burning. 

So, Foster asked in a number of emails for some clarifications. APR has previously reported on those emails, the contents of which are none too flattering for the chair of a library board. Boles couldn’t really answer the specific questions and seemed very upset that Foster had the nerve to point out that a public board member can’t just unilaterally make demands on day-to-day policy within the library. Such directives must be discussed in public and voted on in public. 

To be clear, Foster said repeatedly that he would follow the directives of the board. He was even willing to remove the books on the list that Boles and Daniels made up on their own, so long as the directive to do so was proper. All he asked was that Boles show him where a single individual, acting without the authority of a board majority, could affect the day-to-day operations of the library. 

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Boles didn’t care for that. 

So he fired Foster in private. 

And then, when the library employees closed the place up to show solidarity with Foster, Boles and his Library Nazis fired the employees too. 

If you had to write a script of how authoritarian rule works, this would be it – making up laws on the fly, failing to follow the laws you don’t like, refusing to conduct public business in open meetings, firing employees who attempt to follow the laws or attempt to hold you accountable to the law. 

Congrats, Prattville. This was quite a show. 

The tiny ruler of your tiny library system has succeeded in destroying the library, but he’s proven he’s in charge. He’s proven that you don’t care about laws and rules and basic governmental functions. That you can be ruled by fear and intimidation, that you’ll fall for the most obvious of cons. 

Unfortunately, the pathways to avoid such pitfalls were in the books inside the library you just let Ray Boles kill.

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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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