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N.O. Public Library director resigns after WWL-TV questions his residency

Morley, who is originally from Slidell, took over the New Orleans system after four years as director of the Fulton County Library in Georgia.
Credit: NOLA Public Libraries

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Public Library director resigned suddenly Wednesday, just hours after WWL-TV asked him and the mayor’s office why he did not appear to live in New Orleans, as required for most city employees.

Gabriel Morley took the helm of the embattled library system in early 2020 and immediately faced crises, first with the pandemic and then with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s failed effort to redirect library taxes to other needs.

Now, he has resigned amid a campaign to renew the library tax millage, which is on the Dec. 11 ballot.

At 1 p.m. Wednesday, WWL-TV sent an email to Morley and the mayor’s communications team asking about Morley’s home in Hattiesburg, Miss., which includes a homestead tax exemption in his and his wife’s name in Lamar County. The email pointed out that city ordinances and policies require all city employees to live in New Orleans, unless the employee works in certain departments, including the Police Department, or receives a special exemption from the chief administrative officer.

All employees must fill out a Declaration of Domicile form, attesting that they live in the city. WWL-TV requested those forms for Morley.

A little after 3 p.m., the marketing director for the New Orleans Public Library sent an email to all staff, quoting a short statement from Morley: “Today is my last day at NOPL. I have enjoyed my time at the library and we have accomplished some major achievements like the 10-year strategic plan. We have also overcome some significant challenges like the pandemic. NOPL is positioned well for a lot of future success. Good luck to all in the future. Dr. Gabriel Morley.”

A New Orleans spokesperson released a statement Friday: 

"The Library Board of Directors thanks Dr. Gabriel Morley for his two years of service to the New Orleans Public Library. Under Dr. Morley’s leadership, we developed a strategic plan that will propel the Library forward, and we appreciate his contributions to our system and our city. While we search for a new City Librarian/Executive Director, we welcome Emily Painton, who will serve as interim director.”

Morley, who is originally from Slidell, took over the New Orleans system after four years as director of the Fulton County Library in Georgia. He previously ran the Washington Parish Library.

In January 2021, library board member Andrea Neighbours accused Morley of “spreading misinformation … and basically lies” about the Cantrell plan to cut the library’s budget in 2020, which was soundly defeated by voters.

A city spokesman declined to answer questions about Morley’s residency, but issued this statement:

“The Library Board of Directors thanks Dr. Gabriel Morley for his two years of service to the New Orleans Public Library. Under Dr. Morley’s leadership, we developed a strategic plan that will propel the Library forward, and we appreciate his contributions to our system and our city.”