When the matter came up for the second time in October 1996, during a City Council meeting, Anne Kilkenny, a Wasilla housewife who often attends council meetings, was there.
Like many Alaskans, Kilkenny calls the governor by her first name.
"Sarah said to Mary Ellen, 'What would your response be if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?" Kilkenny said.
"I was shocked. Mary Ellen sat up straight and said something along the line of, 'The books in the Wasilla Library collection were selected on the basis of national selection criteria for libraries of this size, and I would absolutely resist all efforts to ban books.'"
Palin didn't mention specific books at that meeting, Kilkenny said.
Palin herself, questioned at the time, called her inquiries rhetorical and simply part of a policy discussion with a department head "about understanding and following administration agendas," according to the Frontiersman article.
Were any books censored banned? June Pinell-Stephens, chairwoman of the Alaska Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee since 1984, checked her files Wednesday and came up empty-handed.
Pinell-Stephens also had no record of any phone conversations with Emmons about the issue back then. Emmons was president of the Alaska Library Association at the time.Books may not have been pulled from library shelves, but there were other repercussions for Emmons.
Four days before the exchange at the City Council, Emmons got a letter from Palin asking for her resignation. Similar letters went to police chief Irl Stambaugh, public works director Jack Felton and finance director Duane Dvorak. John Cooper, a fifth director, resigned after Palin eliminated his job overseeing the city museum.
Palin told the Anchorage Daily News then that the letters were just a test of loyalty as she took on the mayor's job, which she'd won from three-term mayor John Stein in a hard-fought election. Stein had hired many of the department heads. Both Emmons and Stambaugh had publicly supported him against Palin.
Emmons survived the loyalty test and a second one a few months later. She resigned in August 1999, two months before Palin was voted in for a second mayoral term.
Palin's excuses are bullshit, of course. Why would someone repeatedly ask about banning books from the town library, and how would preventing adults for reading books selected according to standard criteria possibly be part of a normal mayor's "administrative agenda"? And firing someone is not a "test of loyalty." It's punishment for perceived disloyalty. But let's pretend for just a moment.
According to Palin herself, she thinks tests of loyalty are acceptable. She thinks firing someone – or going through the motions of doing so – as a 'test of loyalty' is acceptable (although Stambaugh stayed fired). To Palin, loyalty to her personally is more important than loyalty to the town or one's duty (shades of Bush and many other authoritarians). I don't know about Stambaugh, but Emmons was doing exactly what she should have been doing as a librarian, and given that she was reinstated due to public outcry, apparently the people of Wasilla agreed. Palin hasn't said anything like, "It was my first real position of power, and I misused it when my ego got involved. I'm sorry, and I've tried to do much better since." She shows no signs of learning from the incident in terms of morality or leadership; in fact, she's repeated the pattern.
Palin abused her authority, and then lied about it. She's done the same in trying to get he ex brother-in-law fired. She's brazenly lied, repeatedly, about saying "Thanks but no thanks on that Bridge to Nowhere." She's presented a false image of an anti-earmark crusader. She left Wasilla burdened with at least 12 million in debt. She's hiding away so as not to be challenged on her lies or her lack of knowledge, qualifications and competence. Her fringe views on abortion and global warming need to be exposed, but her track record reveals serious character issues as well. Palin's just one more in a long chain of conservative authoritarians and liars, but as always, the GOP's trying to do what they'll pulled off so often in the past - sell what they view as an appealing package to hide extremist policies.
(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)