Guest Editorial: Shame on Sugar Grove Library Board

By on July 28, 2011

by Douglas Hartman
Past President, Sugar Grove Library Board of Trustees

Sugar Grove is a less-friendly, sadder place today. In a display of callousness more representative of a Mid-East autocracy than a Midwest community, the Sugar Grove Library Board summarily and without comment fired the Library Director, Beverly Holmes Hughes, on July 14.

Who is Beverly and what severe crisis justified the board action? Beverly was the Library Director for 20 years and placed the library squarely in the center of community service. She was the Sugar Grove Citizen of the Year in 2010, helped organize and served on the board of the Chamber of Commerce for a decade, served the League of Women Voters, the community Corn Boil, the Boy Scouts, the Senior Center. By any measure, Beverly certainly was one of Sugar Grove’s most valuable assets.

The board showed its appreciation for this distinguished public servant by offering her humiliation instead of justification. Certainly she had committed some heinous act for elected officials to act so draconian and immediately. The board ignored their responsibility to those they serve by refusing to state a reason. However, as the vote was 4-2, obviously whatever reasoning they used behind closed doors was not of such an obvious, egregious or urgent nature as to compel the full board to agree.

And what justifications have been offered? Only that the board wants “to move in a new direction.” What direction would that be? Further toward their own unaccountability? Further toward using their elected positions to fulfill personal vendettas? Further toward degrading a public resource?

It is almost comical that the one board member who offered any comment stated, “We haven’t defined ‘new direction’ for ourselves, so I can’t define it for you.” So, this new direction was so urgent and compelling it required this knife in the heart, but was not so obvious it can even be defined? This is a sad example of the board’s attitude toward their responsibilities and a revealing indictment of their motivation. The board certainly cannot lead when they do not know where they are going.

The “wrong direction” Beverly took the library for two decades was what, exactly? Oh yes, an impressive new library building that likely would not have been accomplished without her. A thriving library offering well-received programs for everyone; making the library a vital and integral part of community activitie; creating a friendly, knowledgeable and helpful staff.

In June 2010, I detailed board financial mis-steps, meddling in library operations beyond their experience and personal agendas of board members—and warned that their priorities appeared self-serving rather than being in the public interest. I have never wished more that I had been incorrect.

The four board members—Art Morrical, Joan Roth, Julie Wilson and Bob Bergman—should resign in shame. But it appears they have none, nor any sense of honor, appreciation or responsibility. As a former trustee, I am ashamed on their behalf.

After decades of exemplary service, what illegal act or gross job deficiency warranted putting someone, to whom we owe so much, on the street in these economic times?

The board meets Thursday, July 28, at the library. There is opportunity for public comment. Although the board has demonstrated it is not receptive to the opinions of those they serve, I encourage the community to make their feelings known.