Guest Editorial: Sugar Grove Public Library outrage will not go away

By on September 22, 2011

by Douglas Hartman
Past President
Sugar Grove Library Board of Trustees

The turmoil at the Sugar Grove Library will not fade. Why, for over two months, does the outrage and unrest not only continue but grow?

It is all about history, how the library has ended up in financial peril. A history of the very worst a small-town public body is capable of.

The previous director, Beverly Holmes Hughes, fired an insubordinate employee. The director employed due process, documentation, fairness and standard protocols—all the things the board later denied Mrs. Holmes Hughes. But the fired employee happened to be a friend of board trustees Joan Roth and Art Morrical.

That is exactly the point when this all started. It is all there in the board minutes and on display at every board meeting. It is not revisionist history, or the current board spin, but the hard facts of ever-escalating childishness, pettiness and vindictiveness. The unreasonableness and rudeness to the director, conflicting demands, denial of basic professional requests, the restrictions on her legitimate professional authority, the unjustified and improper meddling in operations, the unprofessional, inappropriate usurping of responsibilities that belong to a director.

Trustees Joan Roth and Art Morrical dropped the poison in the cup, watched it spread, and the other two, Julie Wilson and Bob Bergman, drank it willingly. They placed their personal agenda ahead of their duty to the library, to the taxpayers.

The Board escalated the harassment to make the job of director nearly unworkable. When the ceaseless harassment didn’t work, and despite Mrs. Holmes Hughes’ dedication to the library and the community (Sugar Grove Citizen of the Year 2010, Chamber of Commerce founder, volunteer everywhere), she was summarily fired without explanation.

The result is we now see the board paying interim directors twice the hourly rate they paid Mrs. Holmes Hughes. We see them squandering the dwindling taxpayer resources on lawyers and consultants trying to rectify their mistake. We see these four dismissing the nearly $100,000 a year that was the disbanded Friends of the Library group.

We see these four unable to follow a budget and spending money that was not allotted. We see them secretly hire someone who pleaded guilty to battery against a child to work in a library full of children. We see them routinely violate the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

We see their failure when we compare how public bodies such as the Village Board and the township properly interact with the community.

This is not just about the unconscionable treatment of the former director. This is about these four trustees and their moral right and competency to remain in office.

A truism is if you don’t learn from history you will repeat it. These four trustees have demonstrated they have not learned anything. There is every reason for the taxpayers to expect more of the same: the petty vindictiveness of people in responsibilities too great for their abilities, their honor, their common sense, their oaths of office.

This isn’t going away. No one is moving on. It is the height of arrogance to demand the taxpayers quietly accept their incompetence and folly.

The community did not make this an issue; trustees Roth, Morrical, Wilson and Bergman did. Those who love the library—those who pay the taxes to support it—are not the problem. These four trustees are the problem.

The black cloud over Sugar Grove was put there by these four and only they can remove it—by removing themselves.

The next board meeting is Thursday, Sept. 22, 7 p.m., at the fire station next to the library.