by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Requests for four members of the Sugar Grove Library Board to resign won’t be going away anytime soon.
The public comment section of the board’s special meeting on Aug. 17 featured a rapid-fire set of statements and questions from residents—most of which concluded with a call for Board President Joan Roth, Vice President Art Morrical, and trustees Julie Wilson and Bob Bergman to resign—frustrated with the board’s unwillingness to give a reason for the termination of former Library Director Beverly Holmes Hughes on July 14.
Residents also took the board to task for its failure to send a representative to the Village Board’s TIF District public hearing the previous night, and questioned what they perceive as limited community involvement from the board, outside of the library.
The board’s response to questions raised during the public hearing was minimal until Trustee Bill Durrenberger spoke as a response to why no Library Board members were present at the TIF District public hearing.
“There’s a very simple explanation for that, (and) this particularly applies to me, being somebody who is busy with a lot of other stuff and being new on the board … and the reason that all of this stuff is not getting attended to is because we let go of the person that attended to this—for us and with us,” he said, referring to Hughes, which drew heavy applause from members of the public in attendance. “It’s not intended to be a criticism of anybody, (but) that’s a simple statement of fact—a sad one, but a true one. That’s your reason for all that stuff, and I personally apologize to the extent that I’ve missed a lot of stuff. I did rely almost completely on Beverly to guide me as to what I should be doing and when it should be done … and she’s gone. Not only is she gone, of course, but she was gone like this … with no opportunity to prepare or get ready for her not being there to guide us. And that is your explanation.
“Again, you are my bosses; you’ve asked for an explanation,” Durrenberger said to the public in attendance. “I’ve tried to give you what I think you’ve recently been entitled to, and you’re entitled to that explanation. That’s your explanation why things (here) have gone cuckoo.”
Durrenberger and fellow Trustee Dan Herkes, at the Library Board meeting on July 14 voted against the termination of Hughes.
Rogene Kugler, who is Art Morrical’s wife, also spoke during the public comment section and announced her interest in starting up a new Sugar Grove Library Friends group. The former Library Friends group made the decision to dissolve at its meeting on Aug.8.
“During the last board meeting of August the 11th, I was saddened to hear of the dissolving of the Sugar Grove Library Friends. After the meeting, I went home to think of how I could preserve such a wonderful organization,” Kugler said.
The only order of business on the special meeting agenda was a board vote to approve Roth’s authority to hire a new interim director. Former Interim Director Arlene Kaspik, who replaced Hughes, recently stepped down from the position.
Pat Graceffa, former President of the Sugar Grove Library Friends, spoke during public comment, and cited the Library Board’s repeated referral to the “Snow Street Fund,” which was money left over from the sale of the old library. Graceffa said she had recently heard in a board meeting that the balance of the fund was $165,000.
“The mantra of the four of you (Roth, Morrical, Wilson and Bergman) was that this was a ‘rainy day fund,’ and it could not be spent. It needed to be saved in case there was a crisis,” Graceffa said.
Graceffa said she recently read an article in which Roth said the board was prepared for the public’s negative reaction to Hughes’ termination, and then asked if the “preparation” was in fact the preservation of the Snow Street Fund in order to finance the legal fees, lawsuits, consultants, search firms, and an interim director, According to documents, Interim Director Kaspik was paid $80 an hour.
“Was (the Snow Street Fund) a slush fund just for this purpose—to fire Beverly?” Graceffa asked the four board members.
“That money is set aside for emergency purposes,” Roth said.
Roth then replied with “No, ma’am” when Graceffa asked if the fund was being spent on the mentioned expenditures.
“That money is there for emergency purposes to the building. Period,” Roth said.
The next Library Board meeting will take place Thursday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m.