What started out as a Lafayette Parish Council budget meeting turned into a discussion of potentially firing Library Board President Robert Judge on Thursday, with council members expressing displeasure at how a request for bid process is being handled.

According to The Acadiana Advocate, the proposed budget for 2022-2023 includes $8 million in capital funds to specifically go toward building a new library branch on Lafayette's northside. The money was secured in 2019 but is only now being worked into the budget as recent months have shown significant support and progress in getting movement on the new branch.

Courtesy KATC
Lafayette Parish Council, Courtesy KATC

However, The Advocate reports that some bids submitted for the land are moving forward and allowed to be amended, while others are not.

In February, the library board of control voted to seek requests for proposals to purchase land in that area on which to build the library. Four proposals submitted range from leasing land for 30 years at $1 per year to buying 5 acres of land for $600,000. They included two offers to sell land on Louisiana Avenue, one offer to sell land on Chappuis Drive near the Moss Street post office and a proposal to lease land at Holy Rosary Institute on Louisiana Avenue for $1 a year.

The library board decided to ask two property owners to submit their best offer. The board rejected Holy Rosary Institute's proposal because the RFP specified land that is for sale.

Parish Council Chairman A.B. Rubin was one of the most critical voices concerned with the bids being allowed to move forward.

Parish Council Chairman A.B. Rubin was displeased with that decision, saying if two of the proposals were being amended, why couldn't Holy Rosary's be amended. Library Board President Robert Judge also allowed one property owner to change the location of the land he was offering, Gillane said.

Rubin went on about Judge, saying "That name keeps coming up all the time when they say 'We're just going to do what we want to do."

"That’s illegal," he said later. "It’s 100% illegal to do what he’s trying to do right now... Somebody needs to put a harness on Mr. Judge,"

This led to others on the council asking about the process to remove someone from the Library Board.

Councilman Kevin Naquin asked who can remove a library board member if it is learned the RFP process was violated. The Parish Council appoints all but one library board member and appointed Judge in a controversial move.

Later in the meeting Naquin said he received a message from one of the council's attorneys who advised a library board member can only be removed for cause. A hearing must take place during an open meeting of the council and the accused has the right to defend himself, Naquin said.

Judge has been the topic of community discussion in recent months for issues regarding library displays, alleged censorship, and an attempt to fire a library employee.

The most recent issue, in which a library worker was facing termination but not told until just before the meeting she was summoned to, sparked fierce criticism due to a lack of appropriate communication of the offense and discipline. Ultimately, action against the librarian was deferred.

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