Since former Library Director, Teresa Elberson, resigned on Friday, January 29th, 2021, the press has been circling the wagons with one article after another. The thrust of these articles has been to suggest the library board is wrongfully persecuting the perfect director. Not only is that not true, but it’s not even close.
Library board rejects blatant political ambitions
Back in the September 21, 2020, board meeting, the director began talking about hiring someone to help the library make decisions (which should be the director’s job). According to meeting minutes, the director met or had a call with 720 Design and the Ivy Group to consider market research and information gathering options. The premise of the call was to determine if the Kenneth Boudreaux memorial library was the fiscally responsible thing to do. However, board members questioned the need to hire an outside firm for $30,000 to say what they already knew: they can’t afford it.
By the next meeting (October 19th) the director had identified Gale Analytics for a similar purpose. The price tag was $6,000 – which was much better than the original estimate of $30,000. There was no board vote to accept a contract at that meeting or the next one on November 16th. However, in the December 21st minutes Director Elberson says the contract was approved by herself and staff had already received training.
Another surprise (not included in the minutes) is an additional $2,000 being spent to begin identifying and making plans to reach voters that are friendly to the upcoming 2.0 mills library tax renewal likely to come in 2021. So, the director spent $8,000 in taxpayer money without board approval for the purpose of convincing voters to go out and support a library tax. Presenting the case for taxes to everyone is one thing, but targeting specific voters enters a gray area of political activism. It’s possible that at least $2,000 of the expenditure could be declared illegal by the state board of ethics.
Thankfully, the board saw this as a huge problem for the image of the library and quickly and unanimously quashed the contract. They asked Director Elberson to do it, but the board president ended up having to take care of it himself.
The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities grant
To be clear, the board was never against the grant. In fact, they probably even didn’t know about it because it doesn’t appear in any of the Library Board of Control meeting minutes. Instead, Director Elberson went around the board to the Lafayette Parish Council. It appears as Parish Resolution PR-21-2020 as the fifth item in the December 16th meeting. The Parish Council had no idea that the director hadn’t already gotten the approval of the Library Board of Control, so they approved it.
The board member we spoke with about this said,
We need to build trust with the taxpayers. We don’t need to be participating in politics. On a controversial topic like this, there should be two speakers with one from each side of the spectrum. Instead, the director decided to get speakers on the same side of the issue because they “agreed to bring up the other side.” That’s not what the taxpayers expect of us. They expect us to be transparent and fair.
Theodore Foster – the “banished” professor
Lamar White, Jr., who’s fast friends with “Spartacus” Corey Booker and “keg stand” Mary Landrieu, was frothing up racial animus on Twitter recently when he said, “Meet Stephanie Armbruster, the newest member of the Lafayette Public Library’s aptly-named Board of Control & the right-wing extremist who led the charge to banish a Black prof at ULL from speaking at his public library.
It appears Lamar followed Claire Taylor’s example of not reaching out to anyone before propagating his false narratives, because none of the board members had even heard of him. He’s also made clear he’s not interested in getting to the bottom of anything because Stephanie Armbruster has been on the Library Board for months. It’s board member Landon Boudreaux who is the newest member.
When asked, the same board members said they hadn’t heard from Claire Taylor before she published her hit piece. That article quotes the LEH grant’s purpose as “intended to engage members of the general public in conversations on the history of voting — and efforts to suppress the vote.”
Twisting the truth into a racial argument.
Claire Taylor also quoted Dr. Foster as saying that the grant’s rejection “is disappointing given the history of African Americans and voting rights. It speaks to a larger anti-intellectualism that we’ve seen across the country that would seek to restrict access to broaden the public’s literacy about the right to vote.”
In fact, the decision had nothing to do with African American voting rights. It had to do with Director Elberson selecting two people from the same side of the political spectrum.
“Voter suppression expert” Theodore Foster hasn’t voted for nine years
Research isn’t perfect, but everything I can find suggests that the last time Theodore Roosevelt Foster, III, voted was in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 2012 general election. He first registered to vote there in 2005, misspelling his middle name as Rossevelt, and remains “active” on the voter rolls. He moved to Chicago in 2013 until August of 2019. Then he moved to Lafayette.
Although it’s plausible that he could have been removed from the rolls in Chicago, I can’t see that he ever registered to vote there. As of this writing, and although he’s lived a half-block from Downtown Lafayette for nearly two years, he still hasn’t registered to vote here either. So, in the recent record turnout election for President of the United States, Dr. Foster did not show up to any polling place in Lafayette to cast a ballot. That’s saying something for a PhD who is the supposed subject matter expert in voter suppression.
Elberson said they would present both sides – suggested no bias
When the director resigned over all of this, Senator Gerald Boudreaux (brother of former City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux) sprinted to the microphone in her defense. He immediately frothed up racial animus, saying, “there is no right or left” to voting rights. “The other side of voting rights laws are Jim Crow and the KKK,” he said. In his interview with KPEL, Mr. Boudreaux also said that he had no first-hand knowledge of the events at the library. “I wasn’t at the meeting, all I’m repeating is what was in the print media,” he said. The Advocate, by the way, is funded by Baton Rouge millionaire John Georges.
Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that there’s little agreement on rules surrounding voting. There is absolutely a left and a right perspective that are worlds apart. Just a few “controversial” issues that immediately come to mind are:
- Cleaning the voter rolls
- Voter ID
- Replacing our founders’ electoral college system with a national popular vote
- Automatic voter registration
- Allowing convicted felons (some of whom convicted of voter fraud) to vote from within their jail cell
- One-hundred-percent mail-in ballots
- Drive-by voting.
On the opposite ends the political spectrum there is zero agreement on these issues. However, the two speakers that Director Teresa Elberson found to discuss them seem to be in complete alignment on every single one.
During the January 24th, 2021, Library Board of Control meeting, Teresa Elberson explained that she did not follow the board’s very specific direction to keep the Library far away from the perception of controversy. The directive was, if the Library was going to address a politically charged issue (like calling Voter ID racist or likening it to voter suppression) then the other side should be allowed to present a contrasting viewpoint. Elberson initially agreed to the requirement, but then secured two speakers who were at complete odds with it.
If you’re wondering how taxpayer money comes into this, remember the Director is spending her and her staff’s time arranging and promoting all of this. The Director alone makes $118,067 per year, all funded by the taxpayers. Her executive secretary makes $39,197, and another administrative assistant makes $43,584. All told, the library’s personnel budget is $7.8 million.
Social media tells us quite a bit about these “unbiased” speakers
A quick jaunt to Theodore Foster’s social media will tell you all you need to know about his political leanings. Here are just two posts that should shake up anyone who thought he’s even remotely unbiased – because he’s not. Here, he says that any vote for Donald Trump was desperation to hold onto whiteness. That statement isn’t unbiased – it’s an attempt to sway public opinion in a very specific direction.
Here, he’s managed to encapsulate misogyny and racism in a single post. One might assume that this kind of hate-filled bile would receive demands for apologies and denunciations from the left. Yet, the lone comment is complimentary of the “education” it provided.
Wonder no more how the library’s decision that had absolutely nothing to do with race has spiraled so far afield. If you’d like further examples of this taxpayer-funded associate professor’s tireless effort to bring people together, feel free to check out his facebook page for yourself. While you’re at it, remember that this is the kind of propaganda and racial division that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette makes possible by paying his salary.
The other speaker is just as biased
The other panelist that Teresa Elberson selected was Chris Edelson, another taxpayer-supported college professor. Although not singularly focused on creating racial division a visit to his website is just as shocking as Theodore Foster’s social media stream. Blog entries call for eliminating the Constitution of the United States, propping up the completely made up and utterly destroyed Trump-Russia collusion hoax theory, and calling Donald Trump the “bully-in-chief.”
He even referred to Donald Trump’s administration as the “Trump Kleptocracy,” as if the former president were being accused of stealing something. He prefers Twitter to Facebook, so here are a few of his tweets. This one refers to Republicans as authoritarians. It’s a bit confusing because this fellow suggests that it’s the Republicans who are against the rule of law, while at the same time calling for eliminating the cornerstone of our law, the US Constitution.
That *cannot* mean embracing the authoritarian/violent approach we saw, among other times, on Jan. 6. But it is necessary to think creatively about how to defend liberal democracy given the reality that very few Rs will be moved to do the same–Rs now an authoritarian party. 2/2
— Chris Edelson (@ChrisEdelson) January 31, 2021
In this tweet he suggests that “democracy is in peril” because Republicans are the anti-election party. Does this sound like he would willingly “present the other side” of the voter suppression issue, as Teresa Elberson promised to board members? Does he sound unbiased to you?
That is the central reality of American govt and politics right now, and as long as it remains the case, democracy is in peril. https://t.co/zxoa0wfFFP
— Chris Edelson (@ChrisEdelson) January 26, 2021
This was never about race
I can only assume that Teresa Elberson knew her time was coming to an end. She’d been a terrible director, with multiple executive sessions called “to address the director’s character and competence.” When the board asked for ways the library could streamline, she cut services of insignificant cost that hurt patrons instead of allowing attrition to save the system exponentially more money.
Her plans to use taxpayer money to influence the outcome of a tax election was terrible, and bordered on illegal. It was her decision alone to use taxpayer money politicize the library through a drag event for toddlers. Now she tried again on the subjects of voting rights. Both of these things are highly controversial, especially in the Lafayette community. Neither one should have been brought up with such extreme bias. After her short five year tenure as director, the library is much worse off than when she found it. It was past time for her to go. Maybe now the community can begin the healing process.
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