Skirting the law creates controversy

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Just before the action item creating an “ordinance” for the DeKalb Public Library to accrue funds for capital improvements went to vote, Wendell Johnson (DKPL President) was asked:

“Is there anything controversial about this measure?”

Johnson replied, “Not unless you make it controversial.”

Skirting the law creates controversy.  The DKPL board, under Johnson’s leadership, routinely ignored the Illinois Open Meetings Act on numerous occasions including meetings that included the library’s property tax levy as an action item. The board approved a $1.8 million contract to purchase property from the DeKalb Clinic in closed session. They met with architects and took bus tours in closed sessions.

Johnson claims to have the entire Illinois Local Library Act on a computer memory stick. He therefore has no excuse for ignoring it.

The Illinois Local Library Act requires the board of trustees of any public library that determines to accumulate funds to purchase a site or building or to erect a building to be used as a library to provide a record of their proceedings and determinations to the corporate authorities for their consideration and approval which must come in the form of an ordinance. The City of DeKalb is the corporate authority for the DeKalb Public Library.

On October 15, 2010 DeKalb County Online filed a FOIA request with the City of DeKalb for access to and copies of any ordinance, resolution or intergovernmental agreement that provides for the City of DeKalb’s approval of any such DeKalb Public Library’s plans. Additionally the request asked for copies of minutes of any meeting at which any of the above items were approved.

On October 25, 2010 the City of DeKalb responded to the FOIA request:

Dear Mr. McIntyre,

In response to your FOIA request received on October 18, 2010, there were no records found.

If you have any questions please feel free to give me a call at 815-748-2097 or e-mail at […]

Sincerely,

Steve Kapitan, City Clerk

So the “ordinance” approved unanimously by the DKPL board at its regularly scheduled meeting on November 10, 2010 was an attempt to bring the library in to compliance with the Illinois Local Library Act. The problem is the board should have provided the City of DeKalb with plans to accumulate property acquisition funds for approval before accumulating those funds.

After the meeting adjourned Dee Coover and Wendell Johnson denied the library had accumulated any funds. Public documents indicate otherwise:

click on image for enlarged view

Coover and Johnson denied the library was going to use accumulated funds to pay for the purchase of the DeKalb Clinic properties. This despite the library’s attorney, Gary Cordes, telling the media that indeed the library had accumulated funds to purchase the properties with cash.

Coover said that no documents existed that would show she had indicated the library had surplus funds to make the purchase.

click on image for enlarged view
click on image for enlarged view

At some point the library will seek city council approval for accumulating up to $2 million in funds. The public may then get a full explanation of the accumulated funds and the library board’s reasons for ignoring state law.

In other news the DKPL board passed its tax levy for city council approval. The library is seeking the same dollars levied for in last year’s budget. The board also approved paying a $20,000-some bill for architectural consulting related to building a new library. Johnson indicated that the City of DeKalb was going to pay half of those costs.

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