“The search was rigged:” IndyPL search committee member addresses City-County Council

Angry patrons and community members hold signs reading "No New Search! Appoint Hayes Now!" and "Nichelle Hayes For IndyPL CEO!" Photo: Bryce Gustafson

Photo: Bryce Gustafson

Editorial note: The following is the text of a letter written by Michael Torres to the Indianapolis City-County Council on December 25, 2022, detailing why and how the search for the Indianapolis Public Library’s new CEO was rigged from the beginning.

Merry Christmas, Councilors

 Just a note on my recall of the IndyPL CEO search process.

As a member of the CEO Search committee, I personally feel the search was rigged. The committee was for show. Performative. Our service was intentionally limited. Several times information was withheld from us. For example, survey results from at least three different groups that I know of; staff, community, and Executive Committee was never shared with the search committee and that data is one of the resources being used to justify for not hiring Nichelle M Hayes, the runner up. The other reasons floating around are: she is not qualified and she was the person who breached the search. FYI, she ran the library as interim CEO for eight months. Smoothly and positively effective.

Photo: Bryce Gustafson

After the job went through a few edits it was posted for the month of June. Thirteen applications were received. Six candidates met minimum requirements.  A few did not have a Master of Library Science degree (MLS) or the years of service, two were fully qualified, Ms. Hayes being one. The search committee thought we would review them but we didn’t. We never saw them. Instead, the consultants, Bradbury Miller (BM), convinced search committee chair and Trustee Hope Tribble to rewrite the job description then re-advertise the position for the month of September. They suggested we talk up the city more, that we talk about the Climate Improvement Plan (CIP) and increase the salary range because an applicant said they would apply if the salary was higher. The initial salary range was 140-180k, it changed to 185-215k. Prior to these changes the job was in limbo from July-September.

The revised posting ran for the month of September, it garnered twenty applications. The search committee and the public were invited to the West Perry branch to review the applications. The chatter around one corner of the table had a clear candidate in mind, Gabriel Morley. At the end of that meeting the number was cut to ten. Soon after this initial review we learned one candidate bowed out so we were down to nine candidates to schedule for Zoom interviews. Two days in October were scheduled for Zoom interviews.

After the second day of interviews the committee completed an online survey whose results were used to pick the three finalists. These three were informed they were finalists and to plan on attending the public forum in November. Sometime between the candidates being informed of making the finals, and the scheduled public forum another candidate bowed out. An email to the search committee said the search had been compromised and an investigation was taking place into the breach. Now, we were down to two candidates, Morley and Hayes. The public forums take place. Morley bombs. Hayes soars.

Photo: Bryce Gustafson

At the first meeting of the CEO Search committee, the committee was charged with selecting the CEO. After some discussion the committee’s responsibility changed to sending three candidates to the board to interview with a candidate recommendation. I was never asked for a candidate recommendation. After the Zoom interviews the committee never talked or met again. Apparently, we were done.

The board offers Gabriel Morley the job. The other remaining candidate, who was also the Interim CEO all during this search process, Nichelle M Hayes, was told to return to her old job as Director of the Center for Black Literature and Culture the next day and Gregory Hill was made interim CEO. Morley declines the job. Hayes is not offered the job.

In contrast, a while back I recall a conversation in a committee meeting with Trustees Dr. Terri Jett, and board president Jose Salinas concerning the next CEO search. Salinas stated the next CEO should be hired from within while other board members were advocating for a national search. I assumed board president Salinas was thinking CEO Jackie Nytes would not be renewing her contract when it ended December 31, 2021, thus clearing the path for the Director of Public Services, John Helling, to slide right in.

In my opinion, the reasons for not offering Ms. Hayes the position is personal because Ms. Hayes, over the years, rightfully filed a few grievances over her salary, her job description and her performance evaluation. My theory has been further substantiated by recently learning board members are saying she was the person who called a candidate’s employer. The board never intended to offer Ms. Hayes the job. They picked Morley in the beginning and created this breach by saying someone called a candidate’s employer resulting in them bowing out. This made it easier for them to select Morley because they can easily justify not hiring Ms. Hayes with tales of not being qualified and having HR issues which they can conveniently get around by stating that information is confidential.  

Throughout my 25 years at IndyPL, the board hired two outside candidates and the board fired both, making our record with outside candidates 0/2. Will the board ever learn?

Michael Torres
Public Service Associate, Central
President, AFSCME Local 3395-Indy Library Workers
President, AFSCME Council 962-IN/KY