Livingston library board member ousted in wake of AG Landry’s opinion
The Livingston Parish Council voted Tuesday evening to oust a member of its Library Board of Control. The decision comes just weeks after Attorney General Jeff Landry issued an opinion that argued parish governments are free to remove library board members before their terms are up.
Parish Councilman Garry Talbert said he wanted to remove his representative on the board, Debbie Henson, because she did not return his calls regarding what Talbert referred to as controversies in the library system.
Talbert did not put forward a candidate to replace Henson. When asked why Henson could not remain on the board until he had a replacement, Talbert said he did not want Henson to vote on the library system’s next director.
Giovanni Tairov, who has served as the director of the parish library for 12 years, abruptly submitted his resignation Monday, effective at the end of the month, citing an opportunity to engage in research in the public policy arena.
In recent weeks, Talbert has vented his frustration at Tairov, at times questioning him during council meetings and posting about him on social media.
“The library board must choose a replacement director that is willing to stand up to the liberal American Library Association and take the steps necessary to protect our children from explicit material,” Talbert wrote in a recent Facebook post.
The parish council voted 6-2 to remove Henson after a lengthy public comment period during which most commenters defended her. Several commenters pointed out that Henson is the only member of the library board with a master’s degree in library science.
Talbert was also criticized by fellow Council Member Randy Delatte, who said he believes Talbert “doesn’t give a damn” about the library but is using the issue to garner votes.
Henson’s dismissal, one of the first of a library board member following the release of Landry’s “Protecting Innocence” report Feb. 13, is the latest in a series of escalating moves by the council to exert control over the library system.
With Tairov and Henson’s departures and several incoming library board members, one of whom has yet to be named, the direction of the Livingston Parish Library is uncertain.
Larry Davis was appointed to the board in January by Erin Sandefur, who left the library board to take a seat on the parish council. Sandefur played a key role in bringing the fight over library content to Livingston Parish when she came to one of her first meetings as a library board member with a list of books she felt were too explicit for children.
The library board will next meet this month, although the exact date has not yet been announced.
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Correction: This story was updated to reflect the Livingston library board member was removed following an opinion from the attorney general that argued local government had the authority to take such action.
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