Letter: The last, best chance for the Sugar Grove Library

By on October 27, 2011

Finally, after four months of community outrage, the Sugar Grove Library Board has taken a turn toward restoring sanity to the precarious financial situation and acknowledging the possibility they made a mistake.

With the library on the verge of bankruptcy, the board has just voted to engage in mediation with the former director, Beverly Holmes Hughes.

The board, specifically Joan Roth, Art Morrical, Bob Bergman and Julie Wilson, terminated Holmes Hughes in a surprise coup last June—despite her 20 years of service, being named the 2010 Sugar Grove Citizen of the Year and the high regard of the whole Illinois library world. This action resulted in three consequences:

First, the community outrage was immediate, grew and has continued at every board meeting since. Second, as an immediate result, the board began spending funds that not only were not budgeted for, but will not be available unless drastic service cuts are made. Interim directors were paid at twice Holmes Hughes’ rate. Lawyers racked up huge fees. Consultants and search firms are on the hook. Third, the board action caused the disbanding of the essential financial support group, the Friends of the Library.

There now exists the very real possibility the library will not continue to exist this year as we have known it. Something has to give—this board has tried to overspend their way out of their mistake. Programs may be reduced or eliminated, hours (or days) may be cut, staff may be laid off.

At the last board meeting, the three trustees who have been trying to bring fiscal responsibility to the library—Bill Durrenberger, Dan Herkes and Anthony Oliver—were joined, in an act of community selflessness and some courage, by Julie Wilson to begin a mediation process with Holmes Hughes.

Mediation will not necessarily result in rehiring Holmes Hughes, but will force the cabal that terminated her to defend their actions and bring out into the open their questionable excuses.

Of course, a professional and competent board would have attempted mediation before Holmes Hughes was terminated. But that was not on the agenda of Roth, Morrical or Bergman. Given their public statements of reasoning and intentions, it is likely these three will make every effort to sabotage mediation. In the past four months, in addition to turning deaf ears to their community, they have engaged in questionable ethics, conflicts of interest and manipulation of facts. It is to be expected they will bring excruciating pressure on Julie Wilson for her turn toward common sense and respecting her community.

For everyone who is concerned about how this board has wasted taxpayer funds, who is concerned about the financial health of the library, who is concerned about the very existence of their library—please make your views known. This might well be the last chance to stop the bleeding, restore the community reputation and begin mitigating this obvious mistake.

Voice your support for the efforts of Trustees Durrenberger, Herkes, Oliver and Wilson. Attend the next Library Board meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 27.

Douglas Hartman
Past president
Sugar Grove Library Board