A break from the pattern

By on September 2, 2011

Library Board releases statement about firing Hughes; conflicts continue among board
by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Library Board’s meeting on Aug. 25 began the same way as every Library Board meeting has since Beverly Holmes Hughes was terminated on July 14—extensive public comment sections, silence from the four board members who voted to terminate Hughes, and requests from those in attendance for the four board members to resign.

This Library Board meeting was different, however, as the board finally released a statement regarding Hughes’ termination, and also made a motion to cut all ties with the FOIA officer they were scheduled to approve.

The evening ended with trustees Bill Durrenberger and Daniel Herkes—acting as citizens, not board members—speaking to frustrated residents about how Sugar Grove can restore peace and order to its Library Board, which has been under the microscope the last month and a half.

Board explains their rationale for firing Hughes
Sugar Grove residents have been demanding an explanation from the Library Board for its decision to terminate former director Beverly Holmes Hughes on July 14.

And after four board meetings and more than a month of silence from Board President Joan Roth, Vice President Art Morrical, and Trustees Bob Bergman and Julie Wilson—the four who approved the termination of Hughes—Sugar Grove residents finally got their answer.

Following an executive session at the end of the initial board meeting, Trustee Bill Durrenberger, acting as board secretary, read a prepared statement on the board’s behalf. Durrenberger said his strong preference would be for the statement to come from the four board members who voted to approve the firing of Hughes.

“This is a library trustee statement concerning termination of the Library Director,” Durrenberger read. “Last month, Sugar Grove Public Library District Trustees Roth, Morrical, Bergman and Wilson voted to terminate the employment of Library Director Beverly Holmes Hughes. Following the termination, those trustees have struggled with balancing the community’s right to know the reasons for Beverly’s dismissal with Beverly’s rights of privacy. They apologize for their tardiness in explaining their reasons.

“Their reasons for the decision include their belief that, A) Beverly did not provide financial information requested by them, B) Beverly made expenditures of funds without seeking board approval, C) Beverly did not provide programming as suggested by those trustees.

“Over the last few years, there have been difficulties and increased tensions between the four trustees and Beverly. Working relationship deteriorated to the point that the four trustees felt that change was necessary.

“Trustee Durrenberger and Trustee Herkes vehemently disagree with the majority’s reasons, did not vote for termination and do not believe termination was in the best interest of the Library District.

“Prospectively, the trustees are committed to hiring a new library director where the library director and the trustees establish a clear understanding as to their respective roles in providing quality library services to the Sugar Grove community. End of statement.”

The audience’s scorn towards the four board members erupted almost instantly after Durrenberger finished reading the prepared statement.

“Shame on you, Julie and Bob … shame on you,” resident Pat Graceffa said.

“It was all a manipulated move by Joan and Art, and you guys should be ashamed of yourselves,” resident Mari Johnson said. “I hope you guys can all look at yourselves in the mirror.”

“Joan, you are a poor excuse for a library president,” another resident stated.

Board fires FOIA officer
Earlier in the meeting, it was brought to the attention of many in attendance that Roth’s candidate for the board’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) officer position, Linda J. (L.J.) Gleysteen, a former employee of the West Aurora School District, had recently pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery. The charge stemmed from a February incident in which the then-Jefferson Middle School teacher sprayed a seventh-grade student in the eyes with a solution used to clean whiteboards.

Durrenberger addressed the public on the matter and then focused his questions toward the board, raising the issue of whether or not Gleysteen’s background was sufficient enough for the board to not work with her. Durrenberger said he believed her history was indeed relevant, and then turned his attention to the board president.

“Here’s the thing,” Durrenberger said to Roth. “You and I talked on the telephone about a week ago; that’s when you first told me you’d hired her. Remember that? You didn’t tell me her name—said she was L.J. or something like that. You didn’t mention one word about her background … not one word.”

Durrenberger said he had first encountered Gleysteen the previous Tuesday, when he had a FOIA request to respond to and thought to seek out the new FOIA officer. According to Durrenberger, he introduced himself to Gleysteen, at which time she simply introduced herself back as “L.J.” Durrenberger said he tried to get L.J. to tell him her full name, but she wouldn’t.

“Now, it’s obvious to me, Joan, what’s going on here: you and Linda were trying to hide her background from me … the two of you were. Now, you do understand that I am a trustee. I’m not just someone up here taking notes and doing minutes. I am a trustee—you do understand that, don’t you?”

“Absolutely,” Roth said.

“So you and Linda were trying to hide a relevant factor from me—a trustee,” Durrenberger said.

Durrenberger said he could not vote to keep Gleysteen as the board’s FOIA officer because it would be “encouraging this kind of deviousness and rewarding this kind of deviousness.” Durrenberger also stated that he might have at least considered Gleysteen as a candidate if Roth had been truthful with him about her criminal background.

“Under these circumstances, I am vehemently against rewarding your deviousness and Linda’s deviousness by continuing to have her work for this library,” he said.

Herkes echoed Durrenberger’s sentiments and added that the Gleysteen hiring would bring more bad publicity to a Library Board that has been under intense scrutiny since the Holmes firing.

Durrenberger then made a motion for a vote to terminate the board’s relationship with Gleysteen. The board voted 4-1 in favor of termination, with Roth voting present, and Trustee Bergman voting no.

Searching for a solution
After the board meeting, Durrenberger and Herkes met with residents in attendance across the street from the library, and stated that they were speaking as individual citizens, not Library Board members.

Durrenberger told the gathered crowd that the ultimate solution to their problems with certain Library Board members is to have solid candidates run for election and then vote them into office when seats come up for re-election.

“The problem is the next election … doesn’t come up until 2013,” he said. “That’s a long time from now. God only knows what’s going to happen between now and then. The problem is, how do we keep this interest going over a year from now?”

The next Library Board meeting will take place Thursday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m.