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Indianapolis library board met with opposition after declining to install Nichelle Hayes as new CEO

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Protestors were vocal during the Indianapolis Public Library December board meeting showing their support of Nichelle Hayes, their preferred candidate for library CEO.

The board originally selected an outside candidate for the position but he declined after facing public backlash to his appointment.

Those News 8 heard from want Hayes in the position citing her experience within the Indianapolis Public Library system and the fact that she held the interim position for nine months as the search for a permanent CEO was held. She was originally considered for the position but was not selected. Most public participants wanted a vote to install her to take place at the December board meeting.

Dr. Khaula Murtadha attempted to allow a vote to install Hayes twice; this required a vote to amend the agenda because it was not originally on the document. The motion to amend did not pass both times, as a result, there was no vote to determine if Hayes would become the new CEO either time.

Octavia Florence Snulligan, an organizer in support of Hayes as CEO said, “It’s Nichelle or nothing. She’s the last person standing she is from our community. She has over 1,800 signatures, we’re proud of that.”

The library board announced a new search for a permanent CEO to begin in 2023 via a press release. Protestors were adamant they do not want a new search rather they wanted immediate action to be taken to install Nichelle Hayes as the CEO.

Indianapolis Public Library’s board leaders intend to announce interim head, new search for permanent CEO

Appointment of new interim leader from the community intended to be announced in early 2023

Leaders of the Indianapolis Public Library’s board of trustees are preparing to take two major steps related to the institution’s permanent CEO vacancy.

Members of the board of trustees are working on a plan to announce the appointment of a new interim library leader early in 2023. That individual, whom trustees intend to be a respected local leader drawn from outside the library’s ranks, will not be a candidate for the permanent CEO position, according to current Indianapolis Public Library board chair Judge Jose Salinas. All previous candidates will be eligible for consideration in the new search process, which Salinas said will begin sometime in 2023. “In the meantime, we’ll have an interim leader with a depth of experience bringing large organizations through periods of uncertainty who will work closely with current leadership.  This interim leader’s top priority will be to listen to the voices of all our dedicated library staff and our patrons and ensure all are heard.”

Upon appointment of an interim leader from outside the organization, the library’s board of trustees will begin a new search process to identify a new, permanent CEO. Multiple factors led a majority of trustees to determine a new search was needed, including the occurrence of a significant breach of confidentiality late in the recently concluded search process. The breach may have resulted in an unnamed candidate withdrawing their name from consideration. A confidential investigation into the breach made clear to trustees that the breach was initiated by a party involved in the search process with the goal of influencing the outcome.

Because the breach involves sensitive HR-related processes and information, the board is very limited in what it can publicly disclose about the results of the investigation; no further information will be made available.

Although the board initially decided to move ahead with the compromised search process, a majority of trustees now believe the breach was serious enough to warrant a fresh CEO search.

“It’s incredibly frustrating to find ourselves in this situation,” Salinas said. “But based on what we’ve learned, we cannot knowingly move forward under these conditions.” Salinas also said the library’s board of trustees understands that the current situation is deeply frustrating for library staff and members of the community. At the same time, he said, “based on what the board is hearing from multiple constituencies, we believe 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.”

Incoming board president Hope Tribble says that, given the significant public interest in this process, the board wants to be sure it is doing all it can to minimize the risk of any irregularities in a future search process. “Clearly, our community cares deeply about its library, and the board respects and values that,” Tribble said. “We’re listening to the voices and perspectives of all library staff and patrons, not just the loudest. We examined every aspect of the CEO search to be certain our process met patrons’ expectations as well as our own. Ultimately, what we discovered met neither group’s expectations. The only fair thing to do is learn everything we can from this experience and start over.”

Salinas is hopeful having a community-based interim library head with no designs on the permanent CEO job “will help us craft the fairest search for a new library CEO and a stable, productive environment for all library employees without regard to whether they’ve been vocal about the recent search or remained silent.”

Press release from “members of the Indianapolis Public Library’s Board of Trustees”

In a one-on-one interview with Judge Jose Salinas, the library board President said, “The board feels it is best to start the process over again. All candidates that applied before are free to apply again.”

Salinas will serve in his role until the end of the year. He said the new search will be managed by Hope Tribble, the incoming board president.

“And I know she’s hoping to get started as soon as they can on the process to search for the new CEO,” Salinas said.

The public comment section of the meeting heard from dozens of individuals, but only two did not voice outright support for Hayes.

Brandon Cosby, the Flanner House Executive Director said, “Professional process and practice require you to go with the next most qualified candidate. And every single one of you sitting here that comes from professional walks of life actually knows you would never execute this behavior in your own professional practices.”

Joy Mathi said as an immigrant the library was a safe space for her at her lowest point. She wants this institution to be protected.

“This is a public place. Nobody owns this place. It’s for all of us,” Mathi said. “And whoever is appointed here to do whatever they have to do as long as they have the capacity and what it takes, the integrity, to do the job, let them be.”

Public participants left the meeting disappointed and angry at the decision not to change course and make a decision to appoint Hayes as the CEO during this meeting.