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Fired Prattville library director officially files suit against board

Former Director Andrew Foster alleges the board committed at least four violations of the Open Meetings Act when they fired him.

Andrew Foster, former director of the Autauga-Prattville Public Library, is demanding reinstatement in a set of certified letters released Friday.
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After his demand to be reinstated as director of the Autauga-Prattville Public Library went unanswered by the APPL board of trustees, Andrew Foster has now officially filed a complaint.

In a letter delivered to board members and published to media 12 days ago, Foster gave the board until March 29 to meet his demands or face litigation. The board called a special meeting to discuss the pending litigation on Tuesday, April 2, but took no actions after meeting in executive session.

Foster filed the verified complaint at 5:37 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, alleging the board violated the Open Meetings Act five different ways over the course of two meetings. Four of those alleged violations were described by Foster in his open letter to the board.

The complaint notes that the board failed to state the purpose of an executive session it entered on March 14, the meeting that led to Foster’s termination. The Open Meetings Act plainly requires the purpose of the executive session to be included in the motion.

Foster also alleges in the complaint that a decision must have been predetermined through either a secret meeting or a “Serial meeting,” either to which would be a violation. The allegation is based on the board immediately informing Foster that he could either resign or be terminated upon entering executive session, even though the purpose of the session was to discuss “the good name and character of an individual.” (This purpose was not mentioned in the motion, but had previously been announced as the purpose of the executive session) As further evidence of the predetermined decision, the complaint points to a preprinted press release explaining why Foster was terminated, with a handwritten addition after the executive session to add that Foster had “violated criminal law.” That scrawl is part of Foster’s defamation suit against board attorney Laura Clark and board chair Ray Boles.

The new charge levied by Foster is that the board also violated the Open Meetings Act in that executive session by discussing action to be taken. Foster also brought forward his charge that the board unlawfully called the executive session to discuss his job performance rather than his good name and character. While some public employees can have their job performance discussed in executive session, Foster is in a class of employees who must have their performance discussed in an open meeting.

The complaint also includes an allegation that the board violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to give proper notice of a special called meeting on March 14 to hire Tammy Bear as interim director. The act requires 24 hours notice of a special called meeting; the board gave public notice 23 hours or less in advance.

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Clark initially defended the board by telling APR in a retraction demand that the special meeting was actually an “emergency meeting” under the Open Meetings Act, and therefore required only one-hour notice. 

Chris Weller, Foster’s attorney, called that explanation a “post-hoc” rationalization to cover for “the board’s clear violation of the OMA’s twenty-four hour minimum notice requirement.”

Clark will not be representing the board in this litigation, as the board announced she had a conflict of interest preventing her from providing representation. The board did not explain the conflict of interest, but the potential defamation suit from Foster might qualify.

In her absence, the board on Tuesday hired Bryan Taylor, the former counsel for Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Republican Party, and recent loser of the Republican primary for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

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

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