By Josh Resnek
In a command performance Monday night at city hall, the mayor and his solicitor bullied and intimidated Parlin Library Director Stacy DeBole and the Library Board of Trustees and belittled their existence before attacking them and snuffing them out.
It was a fierce forage by a pack of hungry, greedy wolves versus defenseless lambs on a wide open field where the final outcome was never in doubt.
The city council voted 6-4 allowing the change in administration of the library system as desired by the mayor, thus ending 139 years of independent administration of the city’s public library system.
The mayor, the city’s Human Resources officer and city solicitor’s office will be running the library for its own good now. The library will be staffed by the mayor’s appointees and approved by his Human Resources director.
Terrifying liability issues have now all been resolved with the change. Utterly lost, never considered and unspoken by the mayor, and his solicitor are the intellectual and philosophical underpinnings allowing libraries to breath and to thrive since the ancient Greeks first created them.
The Board of Trustees valiant effort to prevail to protect freedom of speech, censorship and the world of ideas, fell on deaf ears.
They didn’t stand a chance against the mayor and his two assistant city solicitors.
The mayor made as though he was hard pressed to reveal the unsettling situation he claimed he found at the library which necessitated him taking it over. Stacy DeBole, the Director of the Parlin Library, spoke in defense of leaving things the way they have been for more than a century.
Her arguments displayed perfectly the disconnect between the administration’s empty, obsessive desire to control all the city’s assets,with no thought given to how the changes will effect the governanceof the library system or the many residents who use it.
“The governance of libraries always have arguments and disagreementsat their center,” she told the city council with Assistant City SolicitorKeith Slattery seated next to her. “But these are intellectual, philosophical arguments,” she added.She said libraries were not set up for censorship or political manipulation, that libraries should be free of all that.
Slattery, acting very much like a city solicitor more than an assistant, did the mayor’s bidding with unusual gusto and verve. Such actions onthe mayor’s Machiavellian field of battle are certain to lead to short termgains for Slattery. He was tough and abrasive, very much the mayor’s legal mouthpiece at the meeting, attacking DeBole, pleasing his boss more than himself.
“You didn’t have an executive session,” he obsessed rather loudly. “That causes the city a great liability,” he added.
When the mayor was called to give his ten cents about the library takeover, he took his seat at the table and prepared himself. He leaned down just a bit, gesticulated with his hands. The mayor put on his serious, contemplative countenance, which is as well -worn and as ill-fitting as his wrinkled blue suit.
He appeared grim, as though there was another Wellness Center human resources disaster he had caused and then overlooked. He hesitated before revealing secrets he said he didn’t want to speak of moments earlier.Almost in the same breath, as if being pushed by a powerful invisible force of nature to do what he didn’t want to do, helet it all out.”I have been in the dark. It is alarming to me. More than 21 people have left the library staff. These are the city’s buildings. We should be responsible,” he told the city council. He also revealed, whenhe said he really didn’t want to, that the chair of the Library’s Boardof Trustees, had applied for a job at the library, implying a conflict of interest.DeBole said there was no such conflict, that everything wasdone above the board with full disclosure.
“As for employees leaving, they do come and go. We have high schoolstudents who goon to college, retirees,” she said. Staffing the library isn’t just a matter of filling a position, she argued.
“We are perpetually short staffed. Trustees all have an agenda. We work for the library’s well- being. They watch over and direct the day to day administration of the library. “Trustees keep the vision going. The library must remain relevant,” she said. No one in the administration was listening.
The mayor got what he wanted with his troops looking on approvingly. All that was missing following the city council vote was the applause of Slattery, Dr. Omar Easy and the mayor’s propaganda chief, Tom Philbin.
What ended Monday night, and what began Tuesday morning, is the disassembly of thelibrary’s administrative structure, something certain to be felt by the employees and the hundreds of residents who use the facilities.
The city council, eager to agree with the mayor, handed him control of the library system in the city ending 139 years of independent management and careful attention paid to the city’s residents who use the libraries.