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Prattville library board calls special meeting to discuss pending litigation

The meeting comes just over a week after former director Andrew Foster demanded that the board reinstate him as director.

Prattville City Hall
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The Autauga-Prattville Public Library board of trustees will meet Tuesday in a special called meeting for the sole purpose of discussing pending litigation.

The meeting comes just over a week after former director Andrew Foster demanded that the board reinstate him as director, restore his access to the library and conduct a name-clearing hearing, or potentially face litigation.

The letter outlined three potential Open Meetings Act violations during the meeting in which Foster was terminated, plus another probable violation regarding the subsequent meeting to hire an interim director.

That letter gave the board until March 29 to take action, which has obviously passed, but APR had heard that the two sides may have begun talks last week allowing for a brief extension to settle the matter.

The board may have violated the Open Meetings Act in at least three different ways when it terminated Foster: 

  1. When the board voted to convene its executive session, the motion failed to state a cause for the session. The Open Meetings Act specifically requires the purpose to be a part of the motion. Code of Alabama Section 36-25A-7B(2) states “A majority of the members of the governmental body present must adopt, by recorded vote, a motion calling for the executive session and setting out the purpose of the executive session.
  2. Foster alleges that the board informed him he could either resign or be terminated, rather than discussing the matter in executive session. Foster says this indicates that the board was deliberating outside of open meetings, which is prohibited by law. Other evidence obtained by APR has indicated that the board has held these “serial meetings” regularly.
  3. Even if the executive session had been entered lawfully, Foster argues that the purpose of the session was improper as the discussion was based on his job performance, not his “good name and character.” Executive sessions are narrowly tailored when discussing the job performance of public employees, and Foster falls outside of the class of employees that can have job performance discussed int executive session.

In addition to the potential Open Meetings Act violations during that meeting, Foster also notes the board probably violated the OMA by failing to give proper 24-hour notice of a special called meeting to hire Tammy Bear as interim director.

Board attorney Laura Clark had defended that decision in a retraction demand to APR, claiming that the meeting was actually an “emergency meeting” because employees were posing a danger to property. APR found no evidence that the board considered the meeting an emergency meeting, which can be called just one hour in advance—this meeting fell short of proper 24-hour notice by just a couple of hours. 

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Chris Weller, attorney for Foster, said that Clark “appears to have concocted a post-hoc emergency to rationalize the board’s clear violation of the OMA’s twenty-four hour minimum notice requirement.”

Foster is also demanding that the board restore his right to access the library as a patron, which has been denied to him after board chair Ray Boles told Foster he was permanently banned from the library. The board chair has no such authority, and even the library director has a due process to follow for banning people from the library. There have been no allegations of Foster doing anything that would support banning him from the library.

The board also published “false and stigmatizing statements” about Foster in a release to media about his termination, Foster contends.

““… the Eleventh Circuit has held ‘that when an employer publishes a false and stigmatizing statement about an employee in connection with [his] discharge, due process requires a meaningful opportunity to clear one’s name—through what is called a ‘name-clearing hearing,’ upon request—whether before or after the termination or publication,’” Foster’s letter states.

These are the charges that the board as a whole will be considering on Tuesday—Foster also leveled defamation charges at Clark and Boles. Boles has not responded publicly. 

Clark refused to retract her statements, arguing that she not only told the truth, but that several procedural hurdles also protect her from defamation charges.

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

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