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On right-wing radio, Prattville library chair shares new insights into recent events

Chair Ray Boles took to the airwaves to malign former director Andrew Foster and APR reporter Jacob Holmes.

Prattville Library Board Chair Ray Boles WSFA
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Autauga-Prattville Public Library Board Chair Ray Boles took to the airwaves Tuesday on a right-wing radio show to share new details about the board’s actions over the past week, and to malign former director Andrew Foster and APR reporter Jacob Holmes.

APR reported on emails between Foster, Boles and attorney Laura Clark, with the rest of the board copied in on some of those emails, including a 113-book list that Boles asked Foster to review.

Appearing on Joey Clark’s “News and Views” on 93.1 FM, part of a right-wing radio network tied to 1819 News and Rightside Radio, Boles told his story of how that list came to be and how he says Foster manipulated the situation.

Boles says 113-book list was generated by “mad moms”

“Here’s what my dum-dum did,” Boles said. “I went to the ‘mad moms’ and I said ‘Give me the list of books you are angry about.’ And they gave me the list. And then I took that list to Andrew Foster and I said ‘I want you to go through this list and I want you to highlight everything in this list that has to do with the LGBTQ community, and I want you to not highlight anything that has to do with sex or sexuality.’”

Boles said he clarified to Foster that he doesn’t consider anything kissing and below to be sexuality—and that he doesn’t “even care about those books.”

“‘And then what I want to do is go back to the moms and I want to explain to them that the books in yellow that are part of the LGBTQ community are staying right where they are,’” Boles said he told Foster. “‘And if they have kids, they have every right to get a hold of those books and read those books if that’s what they choose to do. But, if it has to do with sex and sexuality, we will move those to the adult section.’”

He said he would not move them out of the library because sometimes people might “run into a situation” where they need those books and can’t get them otherwise.

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The records obtained by APR clearly indicate that some exchange between Foster and Boles occurred about highlighting books on the list that did not contain sexual content, Boles’ characterizations, though, do not at all align with the policies his new board created and passed unanimously.

The policies specifically prohibit any books dealing with “gender identity, gender discordance or sexual orientation” from being purchased if they are “advertised to minors 17 and under.” This means that LGBTQ books written for minors cannot be purchased for the library at all. And the policies also make those same books already in the library’s collection “candidates for weeding.” Weeding is, by definition, removal of books from a library. If Boles is to be believed, Clark grossly mischaracterized Boles’ advice by telling Foster that the chair was advising him to weed the list of books.

“In this case, you were asked by the board chairman to weed out books that violate the policy,” Clark told Foster in the email. “You asked for examples. The Chairman advised you with a list of examples and asked you include them in your weeding out.”

Rather than respond that this was not at all what he intended, Boles instead replied “I hope this clarifies the new policies.”

Boles has mentioned numerous times that he is dyslexic and cannot read or write, so it is possible someone could have misinterpreted to him what Clark’s email said, but APR has no way of knowing that as Boles has refused to speak to APR, calling it a “fake news” site.

Boles blamed Foster for what happened next.

Boles says director was told internal communications are not public record

“So what Foster did, he did what I asked him to do but he emailed me the list—and everybody else—after I told him we’re really, we’re just going to quietly talk to this one group and see if we can get them to calm down,” Boles said. “Let’s do one group at a time and then maybe we can go to the other group and say, ‘Hey guys, listen: I promise we’re not going after this. We’re not going after y’all. It’s only these certain books that we want to get out of the hands of children and put them in the adult section. But he emails them, and conveniently—two hours later or so—we get a—he gets, not we— a Freedom of Information Act for those emails.”

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Boles goes on to say that “where it blew up with (the board)” is that Prattville City Attorney Andrew Odem had sent an email to Foster in January advising him that emails between “a board and board, and a board and the director, any communication or text messages or recorded messages do not fall under that. Do not release them.”

Andrew Odem clarified to APR Tuesday that he had shared a 2017 Attorney General opinion with Foster that says such communications are typically not disclosable, but that he did not tell Foster that he could not release such records, noting that he is not the attorney for the library board. APR has not had time yet to study the opinion or a 2019 case that potentially guts the opinion.

“And (Foster) did it anyway,” Boles continued. “And he did it on purpose to try to make it look like we were attacking the LGBT community, when this whole time we’ve been fighting for them. And fighting for this community. And I truly believe he just wanted us to quit too, until he got the right people he wanted on that board.”

Boles goes on to incorrectly state that “this town did not blow up until July when (Foster) came into town.”

“And then it blew up,” Boles said. “And my crazy self thought I might could calm it down. Sometimes I don’t have the greatest thoughts.”

In truth, Lindsey Milam was the director when the people who went on to form Clean Up Prattville and later Clean Up Alabama began challenging books like “The Pronoun Book.” All of the first set of books challenged were LGBTQ books with no sexual content. By July, the fight had been going on at city council and county commission meetings for months. 

Boles goes on to complain about Foster recording meetings with “us,” presumably referring to himself and at least one other board member.

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“I knew Andrew was recording us without him ever telling us he was doing it because he kept asking me oddly specific questions and most of them pertained to ‘Just say what this is, just say that you’re attacking the LGBTQ community’ and I would fire right back at him and say ‘Why are you saying that? They have nothing to do with this conversation. This is about the children not getting their hands on books that they don’t need to see.’ This went on and on and on.”

Boles explains “criminal violation” accusation levied in Foster’s cause for dismissal

Boles then reveals more about catching Foster recording the executive session in which they were to discuss his termination.

“When we had the meeting to talk about if we were going to let him go, or if we were going to put him on suspension or if he was going to resign … about two minutes in I stopped him and said ‘Are you recording us?’ He said ‘Yes’ and he pulled his phone out of his pocket—and anybody in politics knows you cannot record an executive session. You break the law. Right then and there, that was it. We let him go.”

As APR has previously reported, Boles’ claim that it is against the law to record an executive session is highly questionable. When Clark demanded a retraction from APR for stating that said it was not illegal to record an executive session, she pointed to the statute that allows generally for open meetings to be recorded, except during an executive session. Legal experts on the Open Meetings Act told APR that the code is explaining that the general public has no right to record an executive session, not precluding a party involved in the session, and noted Alabama’s law requiring only one participating party to consent to a recording.

Clark also claimed this could be considered a violation of criminal eavesdropping law, and the board allowed that reason “violation of criminal law” to be recorded on the board’s official statement on why Foster was fired. However, that statute by definition does not apply when the recording party was engaged in the recorded conversation.

Boles talks about council support, firing staff

Boles continues then to talk about what happened next as he went to the library to seize Foster’s computer.

Boles said he told library staff Thursday that he quietly had been talking to Prattville Mayor Bill Gillespie and some on the county commission and was “going to talk to the city council” about a raise for employees. He also said he told staff that the “city council, the mayor and the commission have my back.”

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This explanation does not appear to track with reality based on an audio recording APR obtained of Boles telling staff that he had the backing of the council,  commission and mayor, and that he expected to negotiate a raise for staff—on Friday morning, not Thursday evening when he first visited the staff. Boles tells the staff on that audio recording as if letting them know for the first time, and the staff does reacts as though hearing the information for the first time.

Four members of the council also disputed Boles having their support, noting they had not talked to him in weeks.

Boles next talks about the staff closing the library in protest and again admits he lost his cool.

“By the time I get down there I am absolutely 100 percent angry,” Boles said. “I went from nice Ray to mean Ray. Two different people. I go in there and, yes, it got really heated, I completely blew up, I threw out that fake reporter (Jacob) Holmes, accidentally hit a lady with a door when I threw him out because I don’t like talking to fake news, and go back in there and we’re arguing back and forth and I finally said ‘Are y’all going to open this library?’ They said ‘No.’ So I said ‘Alright, I got to go call the board’ and I walk off. And I was calling the board saying ‘OK, I’m fixing to fire everybody. I’m not putting up with this.’ So I got off the phone, I go back over there and I ask them one at a time, ‘What is your name and will you open the door?’ And they said ‘No.’ And I fired them. ‘Get me your keys, give me your stuff and get out of this library. I don’t have time for people to do this to me and you’re not going to use the library as a political movement. I’m not standing for this.’”

Police were called to the scene briefly by the woman who was hit by the door, and APR has been informed that a report has been filed although police on the scene did not find any reason to arrest Boles. 

Boles appears to admit previously unknown violation of Open Meetings Act

In this segment, Boles appears to be openly admitting yet another potential violation of the Open Meetings Act, stating that he exited the library and “called the board.” It is unclear who exactly he called—Daniels had been inside the library with him. Assuming he called two or more other members of the board, he could be guilty of conducting a serial meeting by deliberating on action to be taken with a quorum of the board through a series of meetings outside of the public eye.

It’s still unclear whether Boles even had the authority to fire the employees, as the Alabama Public Library Service trustee handbook says boards should not have direct employment duties over staff. Even if Boles did have the go-ahead from other board members, the meeting would be in secret and therefore nonbinding. Library board members are not meant to have any individual powers.

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No employees appear to have been actually terminated yet either, as APR confirmed with one of the fired staff that she had not received a termination letter.

Boles tells Clark on the interview that he locked the director’s office before leaving, and when he returned, it was unlocked. An employee tells him they unlocked the door because they had to get something out. Boles said he locked the door again. Boles never explains any relevance of this situation to any of the other events.

He also talks about a toilet running at the library during this time. APR can confirm a toilet was heard running while APR was inside the building shortly before Boles and Daniels arrived. The staff were also talking about the toilet running and what to do about it.

Boles says he couldn’t fix this toilet because it is a commercial toilet, but notified Gillespie, who got the keys from Boles to fix the toilet because the city pays the water bill.

“What mayor is going to come by at 7:00 at night and go and fix the toilet?” Boles asked. “That would be Mayor Gillespie. He actually did that.”

“Wow,” Clark responded.

Nowhere in that recollection of events does Boles mention staff damaging property or threatening to damage any property, which Clark used as an excuse for the board to call an emergency meeting instead of a special called meeting, which requires 24-hour notice. The Saturday meeting to hire Tammy Bear as interim director came with about 22 hours notice.

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Listed books were discovered missing on Saturday, Boles confirms

Boles confirms on the interview that he did not find out any books were missing until Saturday.

“So Saturday morning we go in and hire the new person as the new director and go over a few things with her so I leave and I get a phone call: ‘The books are gone’,” Boles said. “I said ‘What do you mean the books are gone?’ Because Andrew Foster in his wisdom when I sent him that list pulled every one of those books off the shelf. And I’ve been trying my hardest to get them back on there and he would not put them back.”

Actually it was Boles himself that told Foster to pull the books off the shelf, as memorialized in an email to Foster obtained by APR.

“When can you have the books that you did not highlight back out in the adult section and mark with a red label?” Boles asked Foster in the email, which came on the heels of Clark’s confusing advice. “Also you need to pull the other books that you highlighted until we have time to go through them.”

Despite the fact that it is in writing that Boles requested for the books to be pulled, and contents of that email had already been published in an APR article, Boles continued to blame Foster in the interview.

“He said ‘Nope, to put them back we’re going to have to have a vote. We’re going have to have a special meeting’ because he was trying to make us look as bad as possible,” Boles said.

According to Boles, when he found out the books were missing, he called police to make a report. In his telling, this seems to happen immediately.

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That contradicts what assistant director Kaitlin Wilson told APR about the situation, noting that Tammy Bear called her at 10:19 “panicked” about the missing books. According to what Wilson was told—Wilson was not actually in the library because she does not work on weekends—Bear had pleaded with Boles not to file a police report if the staff returned the books. Eventually, Boles agreed to not call police if the books were returned by 2 p.m., Wilson said.

But despite the books being returned at 11:38 a.m., Wilson said the police were still called to the library around 12:30 p.m.

In the interview, Boles describes Daniels combing through the library’s footage to discover some staff taking the books.

“(We) called them up and said ‘You got to get the books now or this is going to get really bad.’ And we got the books back,” Boles said. “And this is what we’ve been dealing with on a daily basis. And it all came out of that director’s office—and a few rogue employees.”

It is actually not a “few rogue employees.” In addition to Foster and the three “terminated” employees who did not return, Baylee Smith has also resigned. That is nearly a third of the staff, and sources say more departures are expected.

Radio host calls Foster a “little snake” working against the board

Clark interjects to call Foster a “snake” that “seems to be laying traps for y’all the whole time” and “recording you in particular in executive sessions” and “all of a sudden all sorts of media requests for emails you just thought you were going to get yourself.”

“From your story, Ray, he was the one that came in with an agenda to come in and politicize it from the get-go before you’d even really gotten to know this guy, I imagine, because he’s there when you get on the board,” Clark says. “My words, not yours—this guy is a little snake and he wants to slither up to national TV and make it seem like it’s y’all that are politicizing it when it’s you in particular that is trying to create a compromise between these different groups. And he’s the one running to the press. He’s the one pulling books off the shelf you didn’t ask him to pull off the shelves.”

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Again, Boles own words in his email prove that Boles asked Foster to pull books from the shelves, despite Boles painting the situation as Foster’s decision.

Boles blames APR’s Holmes for not calling him, despite repeated refusals to talk to APR

Boles criticized APR reporter Jacob Holmes for failing to contact him before writing a “hit piece” but then immediately stated that he refuses to talk to Holmes.

“Jacob Holmes wrote a hit piece,” Bole said. “I won’t talk to Jacob Holmes, I think he’s a fake reporter, there’s nothing real about this dude. That when I fired those four people I told them I was calling them the city council and the mayor and the county commission because they had my back, because (Holmes) had a recording of me saying that.”

Holmes did not have a recording of Boles saying that before he fired employees Thursday evening. Holmes has a recording of him saying that when he met with employees early Friday morning. 

“Do you know how many people in the city council, the mayor’s office or the county commission’s called me and asked is that true (because it is Jacob Holmes and we all know he’s a liar)?” Boles asked. “”Two. For that, I am very disappointed.”

Boles talks about attacks on business reviews, family

“When I took this fight on, I told everybody on the board, if y’all will line up behind me, I will take the arrows,” Boles said. “Very few things pierce me.”

Boles said people have shut down his Google account, come after his Yelp account and also come after his family. APR can confirm that Boles’ business, Prattville Carpet, has had it’s Google account taken down in an apparent move bye the site to combat review-bombing from individuals upset about his actions on the library board. Before the reviews were taken down, negative reviews were flooding in, with some Clean Up Alabama members leaving five-star reviews in an attempt to rebalance the ratings.

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Boles addresses the attacks on his family later. APR is not aware of whether there were any more instances not revealed by Boles.

Boles said when he took on the role, “I knew I was risking a lot for our business and people not buying from me.”

Boles said two Bible verses are continually ringing in his ear: “You protect the children, and if you don’t, it’s not going to be good” and “The love of money is where the heart is.”

Boles said he talked to a local businessman who was “giving me the ‘Atta boy, you keep it up’” but balked at speaking publicly for fear of it hurting his business.

“I said ‘Jesus is watching you, buddy; and that’s the love of money. We gotta stand up for the children. This is not about churches, this is not about the LGBTQ community; we’re all in this together to protect the children. And if you’re worried about money, that ain’t good. That ain’t good at all.”

Boles calls on churches, pastors to stand up and “call sin, sin”

Boles said he has talked to pastors about standing up, but said they have been afraid to offend anybody.

“My response is ‘This ain’t about anybody but protecting children,’” Boles said.

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Boles said Gideon had an army of 300, but that he himself only has a select few, and that the lack of churches standing up has been the one arrow that has actually hurt him.

“They’re not willing to stand up and call sin, sin,” Boles said. “We should not allow pornography in kids’ hands.”

While Clean Up Alabama has accused librarians of giving pornography to kids, that claim is exaggerated, as none of the books in the Prattville library fit that criteria, especially when taken as a whole as required by law. The board also voted to move the only truly sexually explicit book it reviewed to the adult section, and staff moved 11 others that have been mistakenly shelved in young adult nationwide.

Boles called on the pastors to show up in force at the council meeting with plans to ask during his public comment period “Who’s for this board?” and have them raise their hands.

That did not happen, as commenters are not allowed to address the citizens when giving comment.

That did not stop one of Boles’ pastor friends Ken Barnett from screaming that “sex acts outside of holy matrimony between a man and woman are wicked” as well as frankly bizarre things such as Judeo-Christian Americans being “killed like flies.”

Boles characterized the situation as “an all-out attack” (from people opposing the challenges) despite the issue beginning with Clean Up Alabama.

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Host says it seems like “outside sources” are defending books

Joey Clark tells Boles that “it sounds to me like there are a lot of outside sources trying to push … that this became an issue for some at a national level that, OK, if you’re going to question these books at all, we’re going to fight back with our abilities, our money …”

In reality, the fight began at the Autauga-Prattville Public Library from parents that quickly became entwined with the Alabama Republican Party and dark money media like 1819 News. Laura Clark, the attorney this board chose to represent it, is the head of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty—which is a former sister organization to 1819 News—and had beaten the drum for Clean Up Alabama.

1819 News’ Craig Monger is also the first person to begin writing about the situation before leaders even shed their anonymity. 

Clean Up Alabama hosted 1819 News CEO and former convicted Colorado felon Bryan Dawson for a roundtable in Prattville, where he said to “burn the freakin’ books” with no objection from his fellow panelists. ALGOP Chairman and Alabama Public Library Service Board member John Wahl was also scheduled to be at the roundtable before backlash against his appearance.

And Prattville resident DJ Parten also spoke out about the libraries very early on before fading out of the limelight—Alabama Republicans themselves have now complained about Parten’s out-of-state American Action Fund.

“DJ Parten, a man who sometimes claims to represent this group in the halls of the State House, often drifts from state to state across the Southeast leaving a trail of vitriol and bizarre statements in his wake,” wrote House Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle, in an opinion after ads targeted Republicans who voted in favor of recent IVF legislation.

Stadthagen himself had given his stamp of approval to Clean Up Alabama shortly after last session.

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Meanwhile, the group that Clean Up Alabama has called the “radical LGBT lobby” in emails is a group of citizens with no clear founding ties to any organization, although the group has worked at times alongside the Alabama Library Association, a chapter of the American Library Association which Republicans have targeted as a marxist organization based on comments by current president Emily Drabinski.

To be clear, the official leadership of Clean Up Alabama does not have any apparent ties among its formal leaders to the aforementioned dark money organizations. Laura Clark is not a formal leader of the group, but was very vocal early on alongside Clean Up founders before slipping into the background. Parten only appeared at one meeting early on in the debate and only resurfaced to speak on the issue one other time months later. 

Boles said he is “fighting for the soul of Autauga County, Alabama, and this country because sometimes, you’ve just got to pick up the sword and stand up.”

Gay resident who had verbal tussle with former councilman calls in

Adam Hunt, a gay man who previously had an exchange with former District 5 Councilman Blair Gornto, called into the show to challenge Boles.

Boles identified Hunt as someone who had attacked not only his business, but his family, saying Hunt attacked his son-in-law (Gornto), his daughter and granddaughter.

“Good job Adam, you’ve never talked to me in person,” Boles said. “Would you meet me at Prattville Carpet? I’d be glad to sit down and talk to you, son.”

The exchange was eerily reminiscent of Gornto’s exchange with Hunt. Hunt told Gornto during a council meeting to “parent his own children,” and Hunt later got a call from Angie Boles, Ray’s wife, challenging Hunt.

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Hunt then called out Gornto on Facebook, asking how his mother-in-law got his number and why she would be contacting him.

Shortly after, Gornto called Hunt, stating that Hunt was attacking his family and calling him a “keyboard warrior”, and ultimately invited Adam to talk to him about it in person— in a similar fashion to Ray Boles on the radio.

When Hunt called Laura Clark a “fake lawyer” on the radio show Tuesday, host Joey Clark asked Hunt whether he was going to talk about anything in particular, “or just call people names.”

“I mean, hasn’t Ray Boles done that this whole time?” Hunt asked.

“No, he hasn’t,” Joey Clark said, despite Boles using the same language to describe Holmes earlier in the interview.

“Adam, you know where my office is,” Boles said. “You know where you can walk in that door at any point in time, and I will have an actual conversation with you. But all you do is get behind a keyboard and attack people, but you will not be a man and sit with me and talk to me.”

Hunt noted that Boles has dodged talking to people other than Clean Up Alabama, to which Boles extended an open invite for anyone to come visit him at his Prattville Carpet office to talk about the situation.

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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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