SG Library Friends disband; public demands board’s explanation for director firing
by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Library Friends have decided to call it a day.
Less than a month after the Library Board’s dismissal of Director Beverly Holmes Hughes, the Library Friends have chosen to follow Hughes’ exit. Library Friends President Pat Graceffa announced the group’s decision to fold at the Library Board meeting on Aug. 11, which only increased the level of drama present that evening, as several members of the public in attendance voiced their frustration with the behavior and actions of Library Board President Joan Roth, Vice President Art Morrical, and trustees Julie Wilson and Bill Bergman—the four who approved Hughes’ termination on July 14.
Graceffa, speaking as a taxpayer during the meeting, called for the resignation of all four of the members with the reasoning that the board has yet to issue an official statement regarding the decision to terminate Hughes. Graceffa also criticized the board for “hiding behind saying ‘(their) attorney has told (them) not to comment,’” and had equally terse words for those who have spread “vicious rumors” around the community about why Holmes was fired.
“If you don’t know the real reason for the termination, then shut up,” Graceffa said, drawing immediate applause from members of the public in attendance.
Graceffa said she believes what Roth, Morrical, Bergman and Wilson have done to the community is unforgivable.
“It’s not even about them firing Beverly anymore, it’s about (them) not answering questions, not running meetings properly and putting those two board members (Wilson and Bergman) on the board in the way that they did-both of them being former board members who didn’t choose to run for re-election. It’s just their attitude … their attitude towards taxpayers. They feel like they just don’t have to answer any questions.
“The residents are letting the board know that they need to clean up their act and do a better job,” she said.
The Sugar Grove Library Friends made the decision to disband during their meeting on Aug. 8, at which point most of the group’s members were resigning.
“We take care of the Library Friends used bookstore, and we’ve had a lot of people resign; some of them have not given any reason, and others have told us it is because the library director was fired and they couldn’t support the board,” Graceffa said. “There’s no way we can fill 49 hours of volunteer work with just a few volunteers remaining.”
Graceffa wasn’t the only attendee requesting the resignation of the four board members, as Village Trustee Mari Johnson, past president Douglas Hartman and several others called for Roth, Morrical, Bergman and Wilson to step down during the public comment portion of the meeting. One person even called the current Library Board “a joke.” Village Trustee Kevin Geary implored the board to give a reason for Holmes’ termination or resign, while Sugar Grove Township Official Dan Nagle called the actions of the four “upsetting.”
Former board trustee Sabrina Malano also spoke during public comment, requesting that the board make a statement regarding the Hughes firing. Malano then defended her decision to help re-appoint Bergman and Wilson in June, claiming she did not know of the board’s intention to terminate Hughes at the time.
“Members of the public in attendance (were) out of order,” Morrical said. Morrical declined to comment further, citing legal advisement from the Library Board’s attorney.
Joan Roth could not be reached for comment.
Board Trustee Bill Durrenberger, who, along with Trustee Dan Herkes, voted against the termination of Hughes, also declined to comment. However, Durrenberger issued a statement last week, stating,“This is not a minor personnel issue; what the board has done is equivalent to the nuns kicking Mother Teresa out of the convent. An explanation is also required to protect a good person’s reputation.”
• According to Durrenberger, the board’s discontent with Holmes stemmed from three areas:
• Some or all of the trustees wanted to see different or additional programming, which Hughes was not providing despite the board’s request that she do so
• All four trustees claimed to have experienced difficulty in getting Hughes to provide them with financial and other information that was requested, in a timely manner or in the form that had been requested.
• All four trustees claim there were instances when Hughes made substantial expenditures or transfers of library funds without adequately informing the board in advance or thoroughly explaining the matter to the board after the fact. This is not to say that Hughes acted in an illegal or improper fashion; the board just took issue with Hughes supposedly not explaining or discussing the matter with them.
Graceffa said she understood that the Library Board wasn’t going to answer questions about Hughes’ termination during the meeting, but the board was made aware of certain questions during its meeting on July 21, and didn’t have answers to those questions, or even a prepared statement, at the meeting last Thursday.
“The people who came and asked questions at the last meeting were people I didn’t even know, so those were true library users there, and I think they deserve an answer,” she said.
Graceffa also said she wonders who will pay all the legal expenses that will be incurred, as well as the search for a new library director.
“To me, those are funds that could’ve been going towards buying books, buying DVDs, having programs … I just don’t think this was well thought out,” she said.
You can now add a new interim library director to the list of expenses, as current Interim Director Arlene Kaspik recently announced that she will step down from her position later this week. A special Library Board meeting to discuss a replacement interim director had been scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 17.