Editorial: No reason, no re-election

By on August 4, 2011

Two weeks ago, the Sugar Grove Library Board surprised the community when it voted 4-2 to terminate the employment of 21-year Library Director Beverly Holmes Hughes.

No reason was given at the time, and two weeks later, no reason has still been provided.

Even when approximately 75 local residents attended Thursday’s Library Board meeting to support Hughes and to ask for the board’s rationale for its decision, no reason was given.

All that is known is that Hughes was told that the Library Board wants to move in a new direction.

What that direction is, no one knows. What made the board determine that Hughes would not be able to adequately serve in her job in that new direction, no one knows.

What is known is that Hughes has been a true community servant for the past 21 years. Her leadership in the library has helped it transform from what it was—a library with limited material and program offerings in a tiny space— into what it is—a vibrant center of the community that offers a lot while spending a little.

Yet, her involvement has consisted of far more than “just” as the library’s director. Elburn Herald reporter Keith Beebe wrote about the initial community reaction, as well as detailed the broader involvement she has had in the community, on the front page of our July 21 edition. Her involvement in the community has been so robust for so long that there is not room in this space to begin to describe it; the best we can do is summarize it. She has been a centerpiece in the Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Sugar Grove Corn Boil committee, the League of Women Voters, the local farmer’s market, and just about any other event or organization that supports Sugar Grove citizens.

In short, whenever the community has needed her, she has not only been there, but has been a leader. It would not be an exaggeration to say she has been a cornerstone of the Sugar Grove community, as evidenced by the 2010 Sugar Grove Citizen of the Year Award she received at last year’s Corn Boil festival.

And on Thursday’s Library Board meeting, the community was there for her.

The unfortunate thing is that the board has not responded to their constituents’ requests for a reasoning for its decision. Likewise, no clarification has been made as to this “new direction” they suddenly have called for.

In the absence of a concrete reason, speculation has arisen within the community. Reporter Susan O’Neill’s story this week includes a suggestion from two community leaders that the reason behind the decision was purely personal, and that Hughes suffered from a hostile work environment following her decision to terminate the employment of a board member’s friend in 2010.

Was this a retaliatory firing, or are there reasons that the board feels are legitimate for why they ended the employment of a community leader?

One of the two board members who voted against Hughes’ termination, Bill Durrenberger, said he doesn’t think there was a real reason for the firing.

Given the lack of any statements from the board clarifying their decision or their future direction, nothing is clear, other than the fact that the board’s communication with the public it serves leaves much to be desired.

They are community servants, too, and when the public demands an answer, they should feel obligated to provide one. While it may be true that Beverly Holmes Hughes worked at the pleasure of the Library Board, the board members need to be reminded that they work at the pleasure of the voters of the Sugar Grove Public Library District.

And unless those four board members who voted to terminate Hughes’ employment change their demeanor and provide clear, rational and legitimate reasons for their decisions, we believe the voters should give them a dose of their own medicine come election day.