Library fight lives on despite rigged vote

By John Labriola - A few months ago, Citrus County residents were shocked to learn that members of the Library Advisory Board (LAB) enjoyed lifetime terms. The outcry over this revelation led to months of meetings and hours of discussion at County Hall to reform the nine-member volunteer board, which began attracting public scrutiny after last June's "LGBT Pride Month" displays in the libraries sparked community outrage. 

But on Tuesday, the library system's governing board – made up of all five county commissioners and two local city councilmembers – decided that LAB members do get to serve for life after all as long as they "don't do anything wrong" – assuming you don't think it's wrong to push LGBT propaganda displays on children, ignore petitions from hundreds of citizen to stop them, or have a long history of radical leftist activism. 

After hearing from a standing-room-only crowd of parental rights advocates and local pastors, including Republican congressional candidate Jack Martin, the board voted 5 to 2 – with only Chairman Ron Kitchen and Commissioner Scott Carnahan voting no – to reappoint incumbent LAB members April McLaughlin, Neale Brennan, Carol Spring, Shavonna Reid and Edith Ramlow – ignoring all 34 other applicants.

"They did nothing wrong!" and "They had nothing to do with the displays!" was the mantra from County Commissioners Holly Davis, Ruthie Schlabach and Jeff Kinnard, Crystal River Councilman Ken Brown, and Inverness Councilwoman Jacquie Hepfer. 

Both claims were false. 

Most of the five reappointed LAB members have spoken at county commission meetings to vigorously defend the LGBT grooming displays, and four of the five rejected a request to even consider revisiting the library system's display policy after commissioners and the public invited them to address the issue. When several residents raised alarms about one of the LAB incumbents' extremist associations – including ties with the radical Islamist organization CAIR and other groups pushing critical race theory and false anti-police narratives – they were ignored or cut off. 

It seems the fix was in well before the meeting even started. Just as the public comment period was about to get underway, Councilman Brown asked Kitchen for permission to speak as soon as public input was over. He then turned to look at Commissioner Davis who nodded back. After two hours of testimony from about 50 residents – with about 80 percent favoring a clean sweep of the LAB  Brown used his prime speaking slot to make a motion to reappoint all five incumbent members, which Davis immediately seconded. (See video clip HERE.) 

The rigged process was too much for many residents.

"I feel we have been cheated," said Hernando resident Rohini DeSilva, an attorney. "You have said repeatedly that you want us to speak, but when we speak you ignore us totally."

But there was some good news. At the end of the meeting, it was announced that library staff is conducting a comprehensive review of all library policies, including display policies, which will be presented for discussion in front of the Library Advisory Board on June 28, with a final decision to be made by the County Commission on July 26. So this fight isn't over – not by a long shot!

While many residents were disappointed by Tuesday's decision, it's clear that the willingness of so many concerned citizens to show up and speak out over the last year has already made a big difference. It's the reason Library Director Eric Head recently announced a "cooling off period" on LGBT propaganda displays this year, and it's why the County Commission will be forced to finally discuss and set a policy on library displays this summer, as parental rights advocates have been urging them to do since last June. That's no small accomplishment. It proves that caring and active citizens can make a difference, and that we need to keep up the pressure to make sure the County Commission makes the right decision this July. 

In the meantime, email your local elected officials below to encourage them to start listening to the voters, and thank Commissioners Ron Kitchen and Scott Carnahan for respecting parental rights and traditional values

Jacquie Hepfer <jacquie.hepfer@inverness.gov

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