MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — A group is voicing concerns over what they believe is a conflict of interest involving the Alabama Public Library Service Board.
Read Freely Alabama, a group against book removals in Alabama public libraries, is expressing concern over APLS Board Member John Wahl, who also serves as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.
The group argues that Wahl’s participation in a roundtable discussion next month hosted by Clean Up Alabama is a conflict of interest.
The event, titled “Fighting to End the Sexualization of Children in Alabama Libraries,” is posted on Clean Up Alabama’s Facebook page. The flier lists Wahl as a guest alongside his position on the Library Board.
“We just really feel like it crosses several boundaries,” Read Freely Alabama Board of Directors member Angie Hayden said.
Read Freely Alabama has criticized Clean Up Alabama as trying to censor books and target LGBTQ+ stories, while Clean Up Alabama has said it’s trying to protect minors from sexually explicit content.
“We feel like at the very best it’s a conflict of interest for Mr. Wahl to speak in that capacity as APLS Board member,” Hayden said.
Read Freely Alabama sent a letter to Gov. Kay Ivey and the leadership of the APLS Board, asking for clarification on Wahl’s participation in the event.
Wahl said he was surprised to see this.
“I’m just kind of shocked that anyone would not want representatives of state departments going out and talking with people,” Wahl said.
Wahl said he’s not a member of Clean Up Alabama. He said he’s just going to hear their concerns and is happy to hear from others, too.
“I would be glad to go visit with Read Freely Alabama. I believe strongly in listening to everyone,” Wahl said.
Wahl also said he didn’t make the flier nor tell anyone in what capacity he’d be going. As for whether he will attend the event on Nov. 2, Wahl said “No comment.”
“The main reason is because I know this has also created some flux within that group, and we’ll just play that by ear,” Wahl said.
The Alabama Public Library Service Board Director did not respond to CBS 42’s request for comment.