Lafayette library board rescinds illegal firing of director, who resigns
Lafayette Library Board of Control President Robert Judge listens to public comment at a Feb. 15, 2023, meeting. (Photo by Travis Gauthier for Louisiana Illuminator)
Facing a lawsuit for illegally terminating its library director in executive session, the Lafayette Parish Library Board of Control has reversed course and will allow him to resign.
At a special meeting Thursday, the board accepted the resignation of library director Danny Gillane, which allows him to retain certain benefits such as accrued leave and health insurance, and appointed assistant library director Sarah Monroe as interim director.
The action follows a Monday meeting in which the library board met in executive session and terminated Gillane, as Claire Taylor of the Acadiana Advocate first reported. Louisiana law prohibits public bodies from taking any action during executive session, which typically take place behind closed doors and involve legal or personnel matters. The vote was also problematic because it was not listed on the meeting’s agenda, meaning the public did not have the opportunity to comment on it.
Board vice president James Thomas, who was absent from Monday’s meeting due to work obligations, said he was unaware the board intended to fire Gillane and had never heard any member of the board speak negatively about the former library director.
“I’m truly embarrassed to sit on this board because of how it operates,” Thomas said at Thursday’s meeting.
It is unclear why the board decided to part ways with Gillane, who told the Acadiana Advocate that library board president Robert Judge informed him the board felt he had done a good job with the library finances, but also that the board felt he was undermining them.
After Thursday’s meeting, Judge left without speaking to reporters and refused to answer multiple questions seeking to clarify what happened Monday and why the board backpedaled.
I'm not sure who would ever want to be the director of the library
– James Thomas, Lafayette Library Board of Control vice president
The board’s move came after Gillane filed a lawsuit Thursday against Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government and the four members of the board present at Monday’s meeting, Judge, Daniel Kelly, Ella Arsement and Erasto Padron. The lawsuit asks a judge to invalidate the vote and prohibit the board from taking further votes in executive session.
A day after the board illegally terminated him, Gillane submitted his resignation, before board members had the opportunity to ratify the vote to terminate him in an open meeting, which would have required 24 hours public notice.
The episode is the latest in an ongoing saga for the Lafayette Parish library board, which has been mired in political controversy for several years. The board, controlled by a conservative majority, has prohibited LGBTQ+ pride display and cracked down on public comments it disagrees with.
Two anti-censorship advocates are currently suing the board for open meetings law violations. The cases stem from the board’s continuously haphazardly conducted business, according to plaintiffs, as well as an incident that led to an activist being escorted out of a meeting by police. In a separate incident, another person who made negative comments about the board faces charges for speaking out of turn at a meeting.
Gillane replaced Teresa Elbeberson, who resigned in 2021 after months of conflict with the board that came to a head over voting rights programming the board deemed too far left.
Considering this history, the board may face an uphill battle replacing Gillane, several commenters pointed out at Thursday’s meeting.
“I’m not sure who would ever want to be the director of the library,” Thomas said.
Monroe, who will temporarily replace Gillane, said she is unsure she will pursue the job on a permanent basis, expressing apprehension she may face similar treatment.
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Judge is facing calls to resign.
Lafayette City Councilman Glenn Lazard, who was at the meeting, told the Illuminator he was unhappy with Judge’s performance and would like him to resign.
“It’s not a good look,” Lazard said.
Louisiana Citizens Against Censorship, an activist group that has been active in library board meetings, plans to launch a petition and a letter-writing campaign to have Judge resign from the board.
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