Letter: Dollars and (non)sense at the Sugar Grove Library

By on October 6, 2011

Three months after the Sugar Grove Library Board fired the respected director Beverly Holmes Hughes, why is the controversy continuing and growing? Why won’t the community just “move on”?

The library is in financial peril as a direct result of the previous and continuing actions of board trustees Joan Roth, Art Morrical, Julie Wilson and Bob Bergman. Opinions are one thing; facts another.

It is apparent the library is in serious financial jeopardy. Last year, the budget barely made expenses. The budget for next year is planned to be $22,000 less. The “dollars and sense,” or nonsense when it comes to these trustees, is that with less money next year the library certainly cannot maintain current operations.

These four trustees claimed they planned for firing the director. It appears their plan is the financial ruin and the end of the library as we have known it.

The direct costs resulting from the four trustees’ unjustified firing of Holmes Hughes continue to mount—however, none of these costs are accounted for in the new year’s reduced operating budget.

The board has had to hire interim directors, who have been paid two-and-a-half times the hourly rate Holmes Hughes received. The board can expect a new permanent director to cost well over $100,000 per year, according to Illinois standards. That will be over $35,000 per year more than Holmes Hughes received. Also add the costs of search firms and consultants.

Last year, the director’s compensation was 12 percent of the budget. Next year, it will be over 20 percent. Last year, library legal fees were 2 percent of the budget. Next year, legal costs will exceed 5 percent. This board regularly has its lawyer in attendance with his meter running at $180 an hour (to protect them from whom? Themselves? Their constituents?).

Next, the board’s actions caused the disbanding of the Friends of the Library, which last year contributed nearly $100,000 in services, programs, gifts, collection acquisitions and hours. This money is irreplaceable. This loss, coupled with the reduced funds in the budget, means fewer (if any) popular programs for children and adults, greatly reduced additions to the collection and a crisis in accomplishing necessary work with volunteers.

What will be the result? The over-burdened staff is already short and grossly underpaid— educated professionals at minimum wage. Will the staff pay for board incompetence?

The library already operates at reduced hours. Will days and hours be cut further? Will no new books, CDs, DVDs or computer programs be purchased?

The facts are clear. Holmes Hughes fired an insubordinate employee, supported with documentation and following due process. That person happened to be a friend of Trustees Roth and Morrical. At that exact point, documented in board minutes and observed at board meetings, Roth and Morrical began the systematic undermining, interference and creation of a hostile environment for Holmes Hughes. They were joined by Wilson and Bergman.

Their unprofessional personal vendetta was placed ahead of the public good. The precious, limited, irreplaceable resources of the library are now being squandered in a scramble to cover this gross mistake.

Why will the community not “move on” and accept things as they are? Because the library is at great risk from continued “service” from these trustees. Because the community understands a funding referendum can never be passed with these trustees in office. Because actions have consequences, and these trustees must be held accountable.

For failure to uphold their oaths, for ethical deficiencies, for fiscal irresponsibility, for violations of law, for unprofessional meddling and interference in operations, for hiring a person who committed battery against a child, for failure to represent the library in the community, for bringing disrepute upon Sugar Grove—Trustees Roth, Morrical, Wilson and Bergman must resign.

The next board meeting is Thursday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. at the library. Make your voice heard.

Douglas Hartman
Sugar Grove