Any objective analysis of the Monroe County Public Library (MCPL) administration over the past two years leads to two inescapable conclusions: Leadership at the public institution has been desperately lacking. And MCPL Board of Trustees' President Stephen Moberly's fingerprints are all over the mess.
Moberly is a former 18-year Republican state legislator and retired estate lawyer from Shelbyville. He is one of two MCPL board members appointed by the Monroe County Commissioners -- Republicans Joyce Poling and Herb Kilmer and Democrat Iris Kiesling at the time. His term began in January 2006 and runs through January 2010.
As Moberly has correctly noted, controversial MCPL Director Cindy Gray was hired before he joined the board. But her most egregious transgressions and ethically questionable activities, which infuriated library staff and led to Gray's Aug. 31 resignation under pressure, transpired on Moberly's watch, with his knowledge and approval.
The Commissioners appointed Moberly to the board in part because of his library experience in Shelbyville. And by all accounts, he became an instant MCPL insider. After serving one year on the seven-member board, he assumed the board presidency in January 2007.
Moberly and former MCPL Board President and IU Interim Dean of University Libraries Pat Steele were aware of the more controversial aspects of Gray's tenure, including a sizeable personal loan she received from a subordinate at the library and her use of library credit cards for personal moving expenses.
Not only did Moberly and Steele not act on these issues, they accepted Gray's actions as part of the library's "organizational culture," to use Gray's words.
When the Alternative submitted a records request to Moberly for "information and/or documents regarding a personal loan between Director Gray and a subordinate employee," he replied: "Pursuant to Indiana Code 5-14-3-4-(b) 8: The Library can not release information, other than to acknowledge the Library was made aware of the loan by a formal complaint, the Library investigated the complaint, and there was no violation of the Libraries' policies."
In an Aug. 1 story in the Alternative, Moberly defended the manner in which Gray took what was effectively an interest-free loan from the library for her personal move from Texas to Bloomington. It was legal, he said.
Indeed, his decision-making process throughout has been informed by legalities, not ethics or appearance.
Moberly's record as a trustee of one of the community's most valued and beloved institutions suggests he has little understanding of the Bloomington community, its history, culture and priorities. The latest proof of this disconnect was his vote at the December board meeting to deny MCPL employees the right to decide whether to unionize.
In defense of his vote, Moberly said, he had hoped new Library Director Sara Laughlin would have a calming effect on the MCPL workplace and that unionization would become unnecessary. Not only was his explanation blatantly anti-union, it was an insult to all library employees and the community they serve.
Fortunately, Moberly's fellow board members outvoted him, and MCPL employees now have an open and fair process through which to decide if they want to form a union.
As MCPL workers consider their options, they should keep Moberly's record and presence on the board in mind. They lend credence to organizers' early declaration that the MCPL union movement was not about Cindy Gray. It's about the future and who might control it.
In the meantime, it's time for new leadership on the MCPL Board of Trustees. The Monroe County Commissioners should pressure Stephen Moberly to resign and replace him with someone more in tune with the community.
Steven Higgs can be reached at .