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CNN host, Prattville native Kaitlan Collins, interviews fired Prattville library director

The escalation caught the eye of Kaitlan Collins, host of CNN’s “The Source” and a native of Prattville. 

CNN's Katilan Collins, a Prattville native, interviews former Prattville Library Director Andrew Foster on her show "The Source" Monday. (Screengrab/CNN)
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The Autauga-Prattville Public Library board fired embattled Prattville library director Andrew Foster on Thursday, setting off a shockwave of attention as the state’s premier battleground for book challenges reached a new peak.

The escalation caught the eye of Kaitlan Collins, host of CNN’s “The Source” and a native of Prattville. 

Collins asked Foster whether he felt his job had become politicized.

“Absolutely,” Foster responded. “And that’s unfortunately happening at libraries all over the state and across the nation.”

When asked whether his termination seemed to be in response to his pushback against new policies that prohibit LGBTQ and sexual content for minors 17 and under, Foster pointed to multiple news articles that came out over the weekend where Chairman Ray Boles says that is the cause of Foster’s firing.

That differs from the official reason given by the board just two days prior, which alleged that Foster had revealed confidential information to the press (by responding to a public records request by APR) and “violating criminal law” which has since been shown to be inaccurate. Attorney Laura Clark said Foster’s attempt to record the executive session in which he was told he could resign or be terminated “can be considered as criminal eavesdropping,” but the statute itself clearly does not apply to Foster’s actions because he was a participant in the recorded conversation.

Foster stepped into the director’s role in July, a few months into the political battle over the library began when a group of parents who organized as Clean Up Prattville and now Clean Up Alabama began challenging certain books for minors due to what they called inappropriate content.

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When they began, it was entirely about LGBTQ content in the books, although the group now frames the fight as being against “sexual content” and points to more explicit content it has found in libraries, much of it in sections designated for older teens. The group has gone so far as to call librarians and politicians groomers and that they are offering children pornography, despite very few of the books containing any visual depictions of sex or nudity and none would appear to meet any definition of pornography. 

Foster faced his first major threat when the Prattville City Council voted to consider tying funding to certain restrictions on sexual content in books for minors that would have effectively wiped out the young adult section.

The council voted that measure down 4-3 and things quieted for a while until the Autauga County Commission ignored longstanding precedent of respecting the nomination process of the library board, instead installing Doug Darr, who had known connections with Clean Up. This prompted the resignation of the four remaining members, allowing the county to stack the board with more people who have had known ties to Clean Up Alabama. 

Blair Gornto, the former District 5 councilman, who spoke most loudly in favor of the contract to make library funding condition, is the son-in-law of new board chair Ray Boles for example. The board also had planned to appoint Tony Moore before pivoting to Darr. Moore is a former Prattville City Councilman who has been loudly supportive of Clean Up Alabama. Moore called a group of protestors outside the library Saturday “sick puppies.” Vice Chair Rachel Daniels is the daughter of a recurring vocal Clean Up member. Logan Strock, an agriculture teacher at Billingsley, was the only member not directly observed to have ties to Clean Up, but has voted in step with the other county appointees. Strock was not present at Foster’s termination meeting or the meeting to name a new interim director. Clean Up Executive Director Hannah Rees celebrated the appointments in a Moms for Liberty Facebook group as if they had stacked the board.

Meanwhile, the city council continued to honor its tradition of honoring library board nominees, despite the new library board unlawfully making the recommendations in an executive session. Quincy Minor would have been picked by the former longstanding board members, and was an apparent olive branch by the new board. Gloria Kuykendall is a former educator who sources have told APR scrubbed references  to Clean Up from social media as the city council became wary of giving Clean Up members even more spots on the board. 

Both Kuykendall and Minor voted in favor of terminating Foster, and for hiring Tammy Bear. Kuykendall also voted in favor of the board’s new controversial policies prohibiting the purchase of materials advertised for minors 17 and under that include “gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual content, gender discordance and obscenity.” 

Outside of Boles and Daniels, APR cannot recall any other member of the library board uttering a word in a public meeting since the board elected officers. 

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

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