Leftist desperation continues to dog Louisiana libraries

   
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If only the Left were as tolerant as they demand of the rest of us. Inclusivity and accepting a variety of voices are only applicable if those things support their overall agenda and have nothing to do with including or accepting opposing views. A perfect example recently surfaced when, on May 20, 2024, three former St. Tammany Parish Library Board of Control members filed suit against the St. Tammany Parish government and its council members, specifically singling out Councilman David Cougle.

William McHugh, III, Anthony Parr, and Rebecca Taylor are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District, Eastern District of Louisiana. The suit makes a variety of allegations, including violations of the freedom of speech, retaliation, viewpoint discrimination, and due process. Aside from vague assertions, the suit almost lacks any substantive evidence or allegations showing precisely how McHugh, Parr, and Taylor were injured. Additionally, the suit doesn’t ask for an award of damages, likely because the parties haven’t suffered any injuries. Another possibility might be because it tries to shield a closer examination of the parties through discovery.

Instead, the suit seeks an order indicating that the defendant’s actions were unlawful and unconstitutional and forbids anyone from acting on the parish council’s resolution appointing the replacement board. Oh, and of course, they want attorney fees. The plaintiffs also requested a temporary restraining order and injunction, presumably to prevent the newly appointed Library Board members from taking their seats. Still, again, even the relief requested is vague.


Correcting a violation of law

This whole situation stems from the efforts of Councilman David Cougle and the other members of the St. Tammany Parish Council to bring the parish governing authority into compliance with applicable state law concerning the appointment of the Library Board of Control. Louisiana Revised Statute 25:214 instructs parish councils on the proper appointment of members to a Library Board of Control. It reads:

The governing authority of the parish shall, in the ordinance creating a public library, name and appoint, at its option, not less than five citizens nor mor then seven citizens of the parish as board of control or such parish library to serve for terms of one, two, three, four and five years, the successors of whom shall be appointed for a term of five years.

The statutory construction is designed to ensure the ease of transition year to year with a minimal turnover on the Board. While this differs from how we elect most local parish and municipal officers, it is similar to how we elect representatives for the United States Senate. The only problem is that the St. Tammany Parish government failed to do this in past years. Around 2012, it began appointing five and six members simultaneously for the same duration.

The Left believes we should ignore the law

In their petition, the Left states: “…supporters of the measure insisted that staggering their terms was necessary to bring the parish into compliance with state law, La. R.S. 25:214.” That makes sense, right? That is the oath of office the elected members of the Council took “to support the constitution and laws of this state.” The petition attempts to justify the breaking of the law by stating, “The statute itself prescribes no punishment or penalty for failing to heed its alleged mandate of staggered terms.”

Now, reflect back to all the controversy surrounding Representative Kelly Hennessey Dickerson‘s (R 6/10) HB777, which had a penalty clause if any public official or employee violated it. In this context, it becomes evident that the same group of Leftists didn’t want a penalty clause. Why? Because they feel that the absence of a penalty allows them to violate the law without recourse.

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The petition goes on to state that “newcomers will require training and orientation, and the wholesale influx of four new members will cause a disruption in its operation.” That is precisely the point! The law intends to prevent exactly this problem. In their foresight, the St. Tammany Parish Council wants to avoid a “wholesale influx” of new members in another five, ten, or fifteen years. The time to fix the problem is now! And now that it is done, it will never have to occur again if successive members of a future St. Tammany Parish Council are as committed to abiding by the law as the present. Members will continue to be appointed in staggered terms, preventing the current situation from occurring again.

This approach is supported by numerous Attorney General Opinions

Numerous Attorney General opinions support the sound and lawful decision of the St. Tammany Parish Council. In August of last year, the Attorney General addressed a similar situation concerning the housing authority for the City of Westwego. The statutory construction for appointing members to that Board also required ‘staggered terms.’ In that opinion, the Attorney General indicates that the law ‘mandates’ the staggered terms. Back to the word “shall” in the LARS 25:214 – it is not permissive; it is a command that something must be done.

1998 and 2002 opinions deal directly with Library Board of Control appointees and support the action taken by the St. Tammany Parish Council. The 1998 opinion provided “…it would appear that, once the original staggered terms expired, subsequent appointments were not carried out in accordance with the mandatory procedure set forth in Section 334.2. Hence, vacancies currently exist in all five positions. Accordingly, the Town and the Police Jury should each submit two names for each of the five vacancies” and provided, “Thus, current members of the Board must continue to serve as ‘holdovers’ until new appointees are named and confirmed by the Board…”

This is the exact situation faced by the members of the St. Tammany Parish Council, and the same procedure was followed when it was determined that appointments to the Board violated the law. The records make it impossible to determine when the problem began. However, a problem existed that demanded action to conform to the law.

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With or without cause

The disgruntled former Board members who filed this suit because they were not selected to continue to serve on the Board are throwing everything at the wall, hoping something will stick. But the fact is that if the St. Tammany Parish Council wanted them removed, they didn’t have to develop such an elaborate scheme. They can remove them with or without cause.

In yet another 2023 opinion from the Attorney General, this one explicitly pertaining to Library Boards of Control, it is stated, “…it is the opinion of this office that a local governing authority may remove its library board of control appointees at any time.”

The funny thing about all this is that the members of the Parish Council appoint members of the Library Board of Control. They are not elected directly by the people like the Council is. Community members elect members to a Council for various social, religious, and political reasons. In turn, they expect their elected Council members to appoint people of the same cloth and who represent the same values to serve in various roles. These include the Library Board of Control.

It just so happens that when the Left doesn’t like the appointed person, it launches all sorts of attacks. When it doesn’t like people telling the truth, it makes false and frivolous accusations, including defamation. We have experienced this firsthand at Citizens for a New Louisiana.

Not peculiar to St. Tammany Parish

This Leftist temper tantrum is happening everywhere! It is not isolated to St. Tammany Parish. People with traditional family values are taking notice of the visceral attacks launched against like-minded people who oppose the placement of pornographic materials in the children’s sections of our libraries.

Lessie LeBlanc-Melancon and Dominque Ductoe sought to stop Robert Judge’s appointment to the Library Board of Control in Lafayette. They filed suit in April of 2021 alleging an open meetings violation. Defendants were Lafayette Parish Councilman John Guilbeau (R 7/10), Bryan Tabor (R 7/10), former Councilmen Kevin Naquin RINO 6/10) and Josh Carlson (R 9/10). That suit was dismissed with prejudice a few months later. However, the attacks to remove Robert Judge from the Library Board of Control continued.

A City Mayor jumped in, too

In January of 2023, Ken Ritter, Mayor of the City of Youngsville, dug up a post made several years earlier in which Judge expressed his opinion on the matter of suicide, which Ritter and others found to be distasteful. Ritter then began circulating the post to former Mayor-President Josh Guillory and others, demanding the removal of Judge. What exactly is Ritter’s position on the placement of pornographic materials in the children’s sections of our libraries? One can only wonder. We are unaware of him opposing it or supporting the leading figures addressing the issue.

More recently, in March of 2023, a suit was filed against Robert Judge in the U.S. District, Western District of Louisiana by Lynette Mejia and Melanie Brevis, both co-founders of Lafayette Citizens Against Censorship and Louisiana Citizens Against Censorship (in which infamous Livingston Public School Librarian Amanda Jones is also involved). In that suit, the plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief and damages for alleged open meeting violations, free speech violations, and retaliation (sound familiar?). In April of 2024, Robert Judge filed a Motion for Summary Judgement seeking to have the case dismissed. That motion is still pending before the court.

Social or political issues

There is an ongoing debate in our society as to whether the government should be involved in “social issues” such as gay marriage. Most Libertarian-minded people feel that the government should not be involved. Many Conservative-minded people, those who believe in minimal government, think this would not even be an issue if we didn’t allow the government to have such overreach and influence in our personal lives. If they weren’t allowed to expend tax dollars in support of social issues, would it even be a problem?

However, when social policies are pushed down from the central authority, such as Title IX, political structures are evidently being used to push minority social viewpoints on us. The backlash from that is likely to be local political measures that counter the social agendas that don’t conform to contemporary community standards.

Again, this is occurring state and nationwide. If you haven’t heard about it in your local communities, it’s because the wool is being pulled over your eyes. The Left is willing to manipulate and conceal their true agenda while at the same time holding the position that they are somehow victims of the Religious Right.

The St. Tammany complaint is filled with insightful snippets that support this hypothesis. The plaintiffs claim that the action to correct the unlawful appointing of members to the Board of Control is “…the culmination of an extended campaign fueled by misinformation, disinformation, hate speech, and discrimination.” Here, you see them claiming to be the victims of lies, distortions, and “hate speech.” The plaintiffs argue that it began with displays commemorating “Pride Month” and evolved to focus on sexually explicit materials and minors’ access to them. Yes, every reasonable person takes issue with their children being “sneakily” subjected to sexually explicit material.

Preventing the sexual indoctrination of our children

The plaintiffs point out that Connie Phillips and David Cougle co-founded the St. Tammany Library Accountability Project to “prevent the sexual exploitation of children.” Why do Leftists present this as a controversial thing? People are concerned about how government-run library policies allow children access to sexually explicit materials. While still Attorney General, Governor Jeff Landry released the Protecting Innocence report. That led to legislation addressing age-appropriate materials in the children’s sections of libraries statewide.

Cougle is accused of referring to the plaintiffs as “left-wing,” “liberal,” and “rogue” members that seek to provide sexually explicit and even pornographic materials to children. OK. Are any of these statements false? If they were, we could rest assured there would be a defamation claim somewhere in the complaint, but there isn’t. Cougle is also accused of launching a petition for the St. Tammany Library Accountability Project, which stated that the library system bought books that “demonstrate, explain, and encourage relationships between adults and children.”

Guilty as charged! We do not doubt that the language contained in the petition is likely because that is exactly what did and has been occurring in many libraries. Cougle is also accused of stating that he would “remove library board members that refused to accept community standards.” Yep! Kudos! But the most heinous allegation of the deviants may be found in paragraph 70 of the complaint, which reads:

During one of the breaks, Defendant Cougle went into the audience section and prayed in a circle with residents attending the meeting, apparent supporters.

We are a Conservative community

Cougle’s position and statements are about matters of public concern and represent the people who elected him to office, a largely conservative community. It’s funny how they take issue with Cougle’s statement affirming his sincere, deeply held beliefs when those beliefs aren’t in line with their own. Other councilmen like Larry Rolling stated, “The [Library] Board should be a reflection of our parish, and our parish is definitely very much conservative.” Of course, the plaintiffs seek to use these statements to in some way support their position that they were unjustly targeted, retaliated against, and victimized! MALARKEY!

A majority of a fourteen-member Council decided action needed to be taken to bring the governing authority back into compliance with state law, not Cougle alone. The plaintiffs claim that their speech as a library board member is protected, but they failed to include a single quote of something they said, resulting in retaliation against them. They then seek to extend the idea that even though they are appointed, at will, to unpaid positions, they are somehow entitled to the same protections as paid government employees. Such as being protected from “unlawful patronage dismissal” and termination for “political reasons.” You are an at-will political appointee. When you fail to serve in a capacity aligned with the establishment’s policies, you shouldn’t expect to stick around long.

Viewpoint discrimination?

The plaintiffs also alleged ‘viewpoint discrimination’ but again failed to allege a single viewpoint that resulted in their retaliation. They were and still can hold the viewpoint of their choosing. If that viewpoint directly opposes public policy, it will be an issue. It is the equivalent of going to work for a company in the oil and gas industry, openly protesting against the use of fossil fuels, and then acting surprised when you file for unemployment—just saying!

The plaintiff’s claims of being “terminated” and, therefore, entitled to some name-clearing hearing is just as absurd. The plaintiffs do not allege to have suffered any deprivation of life, liberty, or property. This suit is nothing more than an attempt to stop the Council from complying with the law. It was filed by a group of disgruntled ex-library board of control members who oppose measures seeking to protect our children from indoctrination and exploitation. Good riddance!

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