For over 49 years the Carol Stream Public Library grew steadily into a respected institution to serve all residents of the community. During that time, the library staff and Board of Trustees were dedicated to serving the community with integrity and professionalism. The number of library patrons has continued to grow steadily each year, and the usage numbers in all areas including circulation, reference services, program attendance, computer use and new card registrations are all evidence of a very successful and efficient organization. Many members of the library staff were recognized as leaders in the profession and in the community.
Troubling Changes Begin to Show
The first threat to the integrity and professionalism of the Library Board came in early 2009 when Michael Wade was elected as a trustee. Unlike the other trustees who fully understood library operations and the essential aspects of the library budget and tax levies, Michael Wade immediately stood out for his glaring ignorance of library operations and his failure to grasp the most basic fundamentals of public finance.
In 2009 and 2010, the library building was remodeled to make better use of the limited existing space to better serve a growing population. As a result of this comprehensive remodeling project, there are now more tables and chairs in the study and reading areas and there is a new computer lab equipped with Internet computers for public use. Since the Board members to this point have always been responsible stewards of taxpayer money, this remodeling project was accomplished without an increase in taxes and was enthusiastically embraced by the public who expressed their praise for the final project. Notably, Michael Wade was the sole trustee to vote against the remodeling project, and David DeRango, Dominick Jeffrey and Jerry Clark have frequently spoken against this important initiative that has benefited so many families in Carol Stream.
Further Erosion of Library Board Integrity
The integrity and professionalism of the Board was further diminished in 2011 when Dominick Jeffrey and David DeRango were elected to the Library Board despite the fact that their participation on the Board constituted a conflict of interest in many resident's minds since their partners had initiated lawsuits against the library. Jeffrey’s live-in girlfriend, Elaine Wierdak, sued the Library in 2009 for wrongful termination. The suit was settled in September, 2010, not because of any judgment of fault, but simply because the insurance company representing the library did not wish to incur the large expense of legal depositions and a trial. The legitimacy of the suit was never proved. Following this action, Linda DeRango sued the Library in January, 2011, for wrongful termination. This case was ultimately dealt with the same way as the Wierdak/Jeffrey case, and again the library was not found to be at fault in this matter.
The financial implications of these self-serving legal actions are already evident. Many thousands of taxpayer dollars that could have been used for library materials and services to the community have been used instead to pay the legal fees and settlement costs. They have also led to significant and costly changes to the library insurance policies. The current insurance company dropped coverage for the critical protection against such lawsuits and many other companies would not even offer a proposal due to the “losses” that came as a result of the self-serving actions of these two individuals.
A New Majority on the Board Brings More Troubling Changes
In February of 2012, another significant change to the Board occurred when Board President Rob Douglas, a highly respected trustee with a long history of service to the Board, was obligated to resign his position when he was appointed as a Judge. Another change took place two months later when another trustee, Tom Arends, was obligated to resign from the Board since he moved to Chicago and could no longer hold a Carol Stream public position. With these two unexpected vacancies on the Board, Michael Wade, David DeRango, and Dominick Jeffrey had a controlling majority. Despite the fact that several extremely intelligent and qualified library supporters were interviewed to fill the two vacancies, Wade, DeRango and Jeffrey voted instead to appoint two members of their Tea Party organization, the West Chicago Patriots, to the Board. Jerry Clark and Susan Galle were far less qualified to serve as trustees than others who were interviewed, but their appointments as political cronies solidified the new majority on the Board. As an illustration of the irresponsible actions by these three trustees, when Dominick Jeffrey was asked why he endorsed Jerry Clark he replied, “He goes to my church.”
At the Board meeting in May, 2012, Michael Wade was voted to serve as President and David DeRango was voted as the new Treasurer. Michael Wade appointed new chairs to the standing committees of Finance, Facilities and Human Resources after removing long-time trustees Mary Hudspeth and Jim Bailey from those positions. Susan Galle, one of the new Board member with no experience, was appointed as the Chair of the Human Resources Committee. When Library Director Ann Kennedy asked Michael Wade to reconsider the appointments, she was told that she was out of line.
A Respected Library Director is Fired
Undeterred in his personal quest to fire the Library Director, Michael Wade asked the Board on July 18, 2012, to dismiss library director Ann Kennedy. This action had never been discussed by the Board and was a complete surprise to Mary Hudspeth, Jim Bailey and Kennedy. This action outraged residents when they learned the details since just two months before this action, Director Kennedy had received a very positive performance review without a single dissenting vote from any of the trustees. By the July 18 Board meeting, Michael Wade had already consulted with an attorney to draw up a separation agreement without Board knowledge or approval. Wade declared the 3 to 2 vote on the dismissal resolution as a vote in favor of dismissal. The following day the lawyer corrected his error. The headline in the Daily Herald proclaimed “Library Board Botches Firing”.
A special meeting was held on July 25, 2012, to vote again on the motion to dismiss Library Director Kennedy. Trustee Bailey was out of town and asked that the meeting dealing with such a significant action be postponed until he returned, but Michael Wade refused and forged ahead with his plan. The Board Room was packed to overflowing with nearly 100 members of the public in attendance. Many spoke against the proposal to dismiss the Director and implored the Board to listen to the residents of the community, but the Board disregarded the voices of this large and vocal crowd and voted to dismiss Ann Kennedy. This was an especially damaging action for the library since two other key management positions—Assistant Director and Head of Circulation Services—were open when this vote was taken.
Alarming Actions by the New Board
During the week following this meeting, Michael Wade took it upon himself to create a new private Yahoo e-mail account for submitting applications and to place an advertisement for a new Library Director without any discussion or directive from the full Board or consultation with the library’s professional Human Resource Director. This unjustified action was especially troubling since the trustees had briefly discussed the general virtues of hiring an executive search firm to fill the Director position, and so it made no sense for Michael Wade to take such personal actions that work in direct opposition to the expertise that a professional search firm could provide.
Michael Wade continued his unjustified personal actions in August when he rewrote portions of the official by-laws that govern the actions of the Library Board without formally convening the By-Laws Committee to discuss such revisions before making recommendations to the full Board. When informed by the Board’s attorney that several of his proposed revisions would be in direct violation of state statutes, he was forced to withdraw those proposals. Wade was able to force through some of his by-law revisions at the September meeting.
A Return to Ethical Conduct and Fiscal Responsibility (April, 2013)
In April, 2013, voters sent a clear message that they were outraged by the disgraceful actions of Michael Wade and his cohorts by voting all of the members of his slate from office. By overwhelming margins, they elected all five of the STL candidates to trustee positions on the Library Board. In the two years since the 2013 election, the new trustees have done an outstanding job of restoring standards of ethical conduct and returning to sensible policies that have proven to be fiscally responsible. Newspaper articles about board politics seemed to disappear immediately, and residents are pleased that the turbulent events of the Wade regime have subsided.
Completing the STL Mission in 2015
As we approach the 2015 election, the members of the STL Committee continue to work hard to complete the mission started two years ago by supporting three more candidates who are committed to the same values as the five trustees who took control of the Library Board in 2013. They are painfully aware of the disturbing fact that two trustees from the disgraceful Wade regime--David DeRango and Dominick Jeffrey--still remain on the Board and are on the ballot again in 2015. When the editors of the Carol Stream Examiner endorsed the five STL candidates two years ago, they took issue with the actions of the Board at that time and proclaimed that "The drama surrounding this library board has been widely reported and
keenly felt by library patrons. A major housecleaning is in order, and a
group of very active and concerned library patrons has stepped forward
with mops in hand." The three STL candidates--Justin Lynch, Nancy Bagdonas, and David Larimer--are all outstanding candidates who are committed to serving the residents of Carol Stream in an intelligent and productive manner. We are confident that they will complete the housecleaning task started in 2013 and, with the help of voters this year, will decisively boot David DeRango and Dominick Jeffrey from office.