Rapidly changing excuses in Library CEO search will not fool Indianapolis

Indianapolis Public Library Board President Jose Salinas holds his hands up in exasperation during the December 19, 2022 board meeting. Photo: Bryce Gustafson

Photo: Bryce Gustafson

by Noah Leininger

The reasons given by Jose Salinas and Hope Tribble of the Indianapolis Public Library Board for their antidemocratic decisions in the CEO search are misleading and self-contradicting, and they continue to change in a flagrant and desperate effort to avoid giving Hayes the job. 

After refusing to consider Nichelle M. Hayes for the CEO vacancy after Gabriel Morley declined the job, outgoing and incoming Board Presidents, Judge Jose Salinas and Hope Tribble have offered shifting explanations for their decision. Before Morley turned down the offer, Tribble explained the Board’s decision by saying “they wanted someone with ‘fresh eyes on the situation’ to heal the fractures,” referring to the deep distrust of the Board among library workers and the community following the 2021 struggle to remove racist former CEO Jackie Nytes.

In a climate study conducted after Nytes’s resignation, 62% of library employees said they did not trust the Board of Trustees to do the right thing for the library. 72% of Black library employees did not trust the Board. In contrast, 82% of workers, including 74% of Black workers, said they do trust their colleagues and co-workers to do the right thing for the library.

After Morley declined the offer, Salinas and Tribble offered another explanation, saying that Morley had “decades of administrative experience” while Hayes had only eight months experience as interim CEO. This explanation did not satisfy the public, who pointed to Hayes’s many years of experience in the Indianapolis Public Library including her role in developing the Center for Black Literature and Culture at the Central Library. Sensing that this reason would not stick, the anti-Hayes faction on the Board has pivoted yet again to a third excuse.

A press release issued before the board meeting on Monday, December 19, attributed to unnamed “members” of the Board, said that the Board “initially decided to move ahead with the compromised search process,” which resulted in Morley being offered the job, but that “a majority of trustees now believe the breach was serious enough to warrant a fresh CEO search.” Jose Salinas was quoted as saying “the only way to bring about the healing our community needs is to identify and install a new CEO through a fair and untainted process.”

If the Board knew that the search was “compromised,” they never should have offered the position to anyone. If the search was too compromised to offer the position to Nichelle M. Hayes, what made them think it was acceptable for them to offer the job to Gabriel Morley?

IndyStar reported that Marion County Assessor Joseph O’Connor, who is president of the Board of County Commissioners which appoints three members to the Library Board of Trustees, directly contradicted Salinas’s allegations, saying that he “sees no evidence that the library board did not conduct a fair, open and transparent CEO search process.”

What is clear is that a fair and untainted process is impossible with this Library Board in place. Their actions reek of corrupt backroom political dealings, which are totally incompatible with the open and public process demanded by the people of Indianapolis.