A Lafayette Public Library employee survived an attempt by Library Board of Control members to fire her Monday. But the board voted to take up efforts to discipline her next month.
North Regional Library Branch Manager Cara Chance was accused of an “undisputable act of insubordination” by board President Robert Judge at Monday’s meeting before Judge moved to immediately fire her with a second from board member Stephanie Armbruster.
Chance has regularly criticized the board’s moves to strengthen its power and enable censorship during its public meetings. That is protected speech that public employees cannot be fired for.
Her attorney Robert Schmidt said Judge’s allegation at the meeting was the first she’d heard of “any alleged insubordination.”
“The first time that Ms. Chance was ever informed of any alleged insubordination was right here in this room in front of everybody. She was not given any sort of notice beforehand of the action that was being proposed or of what misconduct she was accused of engaging in,” Schmidt said.
“As a civil servant. She does have a right before she’s terminated to be notified of the charges against her and to have an opportunity to defend herself against them.”
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Judge argued that Chance had “wilfully defied” Library Director Danny Gillane’s directive prohibiting book displays focused on specific populations by creating an LGBTQ display at the North Regional Library Branch in June.
The display appears to conform with Gillane’s directive by focusing on teen romance novels, including titles with LGBTQ relationships. To feature only heterosexual romance books could have run afoul of the prohibition on highlighting specific populations.
“This isn’t about neutrality. This is very much about erasing all facets of LGBTQ representation from our government, and you should be ashamed of yourselves,” speaker Jared Eubanks told the board Monday.
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Judge claimed at Monday’s meeting that Gillane had recused himself from disciplining Chance over a separate personnel matter and left the issue to the board. Gillane was on vacation and not at the meeting.
But board member Shane Landers said he received an email from Gillane an hour before the session started saying he would prefer the board not to take any action related to Chance’s employment.
“I want to leave any decision making to the director,” said Landers, who is a civil service protected employee of the local government like Chance. “Even if the board -quote, unquote- has authority to make this decision, I believe it’s setting up a very dangerous precedent.”
That sentiment was echoed by board member David Pitre, who said Gillane’s absence and the lack of any prior disciplinary procedures made him uncomfortable with firing Chance, although he also spoke against her alleged “insubordination.”
“I would be much more comfortable with this whole process for us to have a chance to meet with Mr. Gillane in executive session upon his return. I really feel like we need to have the component of due process. It is an important decision,” Pitre said.
“I want to complete what I’m saying by reiterating I have no patience with insubordination … However, I do absolutely believe in a systematic due process.”
After hearing from a few citizens in the packed meeting room of the South Regional Library, the board voted to defer the matter until its August meeting, the time and location for which have not yet been set.
But former Lafayette Parish School Board Member Mary Lib Guercio criticized that decision.
“The decision to table or not to table reflects extremely poor decision making from the board to begin with,” Guercio said. “There’s a process and there’s a due process for employees to follow. No one should be summarily disciplined and terminated from their job without going through a due process system.”
The board also voted after an executive session Monday to continue to employ Gillane as library director as part of his annual review. Gillane is not a civil service-protected employee.
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