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Library drama continues in 1st board meeting since CEO fallout

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Community members and activists gave the Indianapolis Public Library board an earful at the board’s monthly public meeting Dec. 19.

About 100 people were at the Library Services Center, along with a notable police presence, to express their disdain for the board not offering Nichelle M. Hayes the permanent CEO job. This was the first public meeting since the board voted to offer the position to Gabriel Morley, who declined the offer a day later amid pushback from the community.

People disrupted the meeting often, walking to the middle of the floor to ask questions and erupting in chants. At times, board president Jose Salinas threatened to stop the meeting because of disruptions, but the meeting continued.

Dr. Khaula Murtadha and Dr. Patricia Payne introduced a resolution to skip a third candidate search and elect Nichelle M. Hayes as CEO. Someone from the crowd asks “Who here is for this motion?” to which many people raise their hands. (Photo/ Jayden Kennett)

“I ain’t ever felt so alienated in my life,” Pastor Lionel Rush said standing mere feet away from the board’s table at the front of the room. People erupted in cheer and gave a standing ovation. Board members didn’t make much of an attempt to stop Rush, who spoke for about a minute.

Organizers from the Party for Socialism and Liberation presented a petition that has garnered more than 1,800 signatures, including several of Morley’s former employees in New Orleans, to demand the board hire Hayes as CEO.

Board members Dr. Khaula Murtadha and Dr. Patricia Payne introduced a special resolution to skip a third candidate search and offer Hayes the job. A majority of the board voted against hearing it.

The board announced in a press release before the meeting that the CEO search was compromised and an investigation into the breach revealed “the breach was initiated by a party involved in the search process with the goal of influencing the outcome.”

The board initially decided to move forward with the “compromised” search process, but now believes the breach warrants a fresh CEO search, according to the press release.

Many people at the meeting said they were confused by the CEO search process and the need for a third search.

Brandon Cosby, CEO of Flanner House, said he has never seen an interview process have to start over after a candidate declines, including his own interview process at Flanner House. Cosby also said he believes the board is undermining the value of Black women in the community.

“You all screwed up. And you called on a Black woman to clean up your mess,” Cosby said during the public comment period, referring to Hayes’ time as interim CEO. “And then you offered to hire a white person to go ahead and move forward.”

Queen mother of Kwanzaa at the library, Mashariki Jywanza, said she is also disappointed in the board — excluding Murtadha and Payne, a common sentiment many others expressed as well. Murtadha and Payne were the only board members to vote against offering Morley the job.

A representative from the Black Caucus American Library Association said the organization is reconsidering having its 12th national conference in Indianapolis next year because of the search process.

Several people called for board members to resign and said they’ll reach out to the Indianapolis City-County Council, which has two appointments on the board, to push for resignations. Other seats are appointed by the Marion County Board of Commissioners and Indianapolis Public Schools.

Contact staff writer Jayden Kennett 317-762-7847 or email jaydenk@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay.

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