Two Howard County Council members and community leaders demanded that the county auditor be fired this week after an investigation into the Howard County Library System prompted questions over the office’s use of descriptions of race.

The report came after County Auditor Craig Glendenning’s office received an anonymous complaint in October about an event to be held at the library system’s new Equity Resource Center by a sorority organization honoring its 50th anniversary. The complainant alleged the event was held for the “personal benefit” of the library system’s president and CEO, Tonya Aikens, and claimed she was a member of the sorority and used taxpayer dollars to pay county workers to staff the event.

In its own report released Wednesday, the library system’s board of trustees refuted the allegations and criticized the auditor’s decision to single out the race and gender of the sorority members, as well as what they were wearing.

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Although Aikens attended the event, the board stated she had no role in planning it and was not a member of the sorority involved, nor any sorority.

Rev. Larry Walker, a deputy pastor at Celebration Church in Columbia, held a press conference Thursday with other community leaders to demand that Glendenning be fired, and to call for the county to apologize to the sorority, the library system and Aikens.

“I want to know how in the world that detail has anything to do about misuse of facility, except to besmirch the reputation of a group of people,” Walker told The Banner.

Walker wondered if the same allegations would be made if the group planning the event was for members of a different race.

He called the accusations “a racist attack on Black women” and said it would have taken one phone call to discover Aikens was not a part of the sorority.

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In a Wednesday statement, council members Opel Jones and Christiana Rigby also called for the termination of the county auditor, criticizing the office’s lack of transparency and calling the report “unacceptable and appalling.”

“Howard County prides itself on civility, cultural competency, diversity, and inclusion; race, ethnicity, nor creed should be singled out in an official Auditor’s Report. There is no place for intimidation of Howard County residents, biased leadership, or divisiveness in any place of authority within Howard County,” Jones and Rigby wrote in the statement.

Jones and Rigby criticized the “racially insensitive tone, language and approach of the investigation” and said the office went beyond its scope of authority.

In its report, the county auditor’s office said it moved to conduct an investigation after researching the event online and visiting the library branch during it.

In an original draft of the audit, investigators wrote that “African American women wearing white dresses were entering the building,” and added that internet photos later showed Aikens had also been present at the event, among other observations.

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As of Thursday evening, the line describing the women in attendance was no longer present in a draft of the report available on the county auditor’s website. A note at the end of the document indicates it was edited and republished on Wednesday. Glendenning declined to comment for the story Thursday, or confirm the deletion.

Glendenning’s office ultimately decided to terminate the investigation because it “could not conceivably proceed without HCLS’ unrestricted cooperation.”

cadence.quaranta@thebaltimorebanner.com