Birmingham Public Library

Birmingham Library Exec Returns to Work After One-Month Suspension

Birmingham Public Library Executive Director Floyd Council. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Birmingham Public Library Executive Director Floyd Council was back at work Friday after one month of being suspended without pay.

Council was suspended by the BPL board of trustees last month for undisclosed reasons. As with most details regarding Council’s employment, the board refused to provide details about the decision to the public. The board did not discuss Council during its regular meeting Nov. 10.

Multiple BPL employees confirmed Council’s return to the library Friday, though under condition of anonymity. When reached by phone, one employee in BPL’s administration office offered to take a message for Council but said she was not allowed to confirm or deny his return.

Council’s tenure as executive director of the BPL has been marred by employee claims that he fosters a hostile work environment. “Some of us have been berated and treated like children in front of other employees and patrons,” said employee Monica King Slater, who spoke for nearly 20 library employees who gathered at an October 2018 board meeting. “We fear retaliation if we make a suggestion, have an idea or speak up … . Fear and uncertainty are perpetuated throughout this system … . A place once known as a home away from home has now become a dreary, dark place, an empty vessel.”

Slater, who was one of the 158 BPL employees furloughed due to COVID-19 budget cuts, returned to speak at the Nov. 10 meeting, urging the board not to allow Council to return to work.

“Many of us were afraid to speak out for our jobs,” she said. “I feel like if you allow Mr. Council to return as executive director here, his reign of fear and intimidation will continue to perpetuate throughout this system. I feel like if you allow Mr. Council to come back, he will come back with a vengeance.”

Council has dismissed the complaints against him as coming from “extreme outliers” and has refused to discuss the issue with reporters.

Friday also marked Council’s three-year anniversary on the job; he took to Facebook Friday morning to celebrate the milestone. “As I look back, I thank God, my family, mentors, friends, and haters,” he wrote. “‘I love you all equally.’”