Mea culpa (well, not really), but let’s move on

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The DeKalb Public Library Board chose the architect, approved the building program for a new library and ratified a vote taken May 12, 2010 in closed session to purchase property formerly occupied by the DeKalb Clinic Chartered. With a unanimous vote the Board crossed their fingers behind their back and whispered, “Mea culpa, let’s move on.”

The disdain the Board has for the public was spelled out in the agenda as “public comments” was placed after all action items in open session and just before the Board voted to go into closed session. That disdain was openly displayed when a board member laughed loudly while a resident of DeKalb, John Anderson, told the board that the public had lost faith in them and that he thought the entire board should resign.

DeKalb Public Library Board President, Wendell Johnson (left), listens to Gary Cordes (right) as he reads a list from the Daily Chronicle of possible Open Meetings Act violations.

After closed session the Board announced that it held its first ever “semi-annual meeting” to discuss minutes from closed sessions to determine whether or not those minutes should remain private or public as required under 5 ILCS 120/2.06(d).

Wendell Johnson, Library Board President, reported that the Board voted unanimously, in closed session, to keep all of the minutes closed. Every word.

Here are some agenda items for a few of those special closed session meetings that the public has no right to know about, according to the DeKalb Public Library Board:

  • Sat. April 12, 2008 … Travel to Remote Sites – Visit to Other Libraries
  • Wed. July 30, 2008 … Building Program Discussion
  • Wed. Nov 18, 2009 … Approve Levy Request, Approve Letter of Intent

The above is just a select few of the special meetings called by the Board. There are numerous closed sessions throughout meetings posted on the library’s website since 2006. Some of those closed sessions are identified only with language such as Library Law. The public doesn’t have the right to know a single word. Not one.

After the meeting was adjourned, library attorney Gary Cordes, said that a letter he received from the Illinois Attorney General’s office informing him that a DeKalb County Online request for review warranted further investigation was not announced or discussed during open session because it constitutes pending litigation. He said the letter was discussed in closed session.

“You started all of this,” said Cordes. “You know why it was discussed in closed session.”

The Daily Chronicle has also expressed concerns about possible Open Meetings Act violations but apparently Cordes and the Library Board are not concerned about any possible litigation from their end. Correspondence from the Chronicle was read and discussed during open session.

DeKalb County States Attorney, John Farrell, may think otherwise. He will be meeting with Cordes and Dee Coover to discuss any actions his office may pursue in this matter.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Oh yeah, one more thing. Funny how the Library Board would not vote on their Financial Policy back in February 2008 until they heard back from consulting attorney Phil Lenzini. But now they need to be trained? Again? They thought to talk with Phil in February 2008 about Financial Policy, but didn't need him when they voted in closed session to buy the clinic? Read it and weep at: http://www.dkpl.org/board_meetings/2008/minutes/m… (Notice they also took a look at Conduct and Ethics at this meeting!)

  2. So this morning's Chronicle says the trustees will undergo training by Phil Lenzini, a Peoria attorney specializing in library and municipal law. Funny thing is, Phil gave a Library Legal Seminar back on March 9th. Cost a whopping $10 to attend! Lots of local librarians and trustees attended. I wonder…did anyone from DeKalb? What do their minutes show on that? Oh, that's right, they don't release minutes, not even from open meetings. How many times do leaders in DeKalb have to be trained to get something right? Can't they just read the statute? Its not that complicated. Looks to me like the only hope for DeKalb might be the State Attorney General or US Attorney General getting involved. I would love to see Patrick Fitzgerald get interested in this. But I suppose he has bigger fish to fry. Maybe after the Blago trial??? Considering all the interconnections and how business gets done in DeKalb County, there might be something worth looking at. In the meanwhile, they should certainly hire Phil Lenzini to do some training. But the court should fire all the existing leaders and let Phil train some newbies who want to do things right.

  3. The Wed. Nov 18, 2009 Special Meeting agenda indicates that the levy request may have been approved in open session. However, minutes to that meeting have been withheld (as of 10:48pm Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010) as have all minutes to such Special Meetings dating back through 2008. Without giving their closed session meeting minutes proper due diligence we are left to wonder exactly what transpired at those meetings and in regards to the specific agenda items.

  4. The library board must be stealing pages from the City Council's (and administration's) handbook on "how to not make friends and influence people!" I reference page #WTF, wherein it states: "the will of the people is to be ignored" and also "the less they know the better, because we know better." (please see the "door closes behind us for a reason clause" in the appendix) oh, wait, they wrote that in closed session…..

  5. I feel exactly the same way as John, so am shocked to hear that he was laughed at for suggesting the honorable thing. I feel very differently about my library than I did just a few weeks ago and am pinning much hope on the AG. Let me know what I can do to help.

  6. I find it appalling that they also voted on a tax levy request in closed session. It is my understanding that such a vote must be taken in public. Certainly that is also the ethical way to conduct public business. I doubt that it is even permissible to discuss tax matters in closed session. But since they obviously have lots to hide from the public, it is not surprising that those minutes are being kept out of the public view. Since the states attorney is pursuing an agreement under a civil action, I suspect that the usual DeKalb County fix is in. Hopefully the Attorney General can do something here so that our local governments start following the laws.

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