Close the book?

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“For a building fund to be created, the council has to act on that and agree to the library’s plans to build before such a levy could be assessed.”

“For a building fund to be created, the council has to act on that and agree to the library’s plans to build before such a levy could be assessed.”

For a building fund to be created, the council has to act on that and agree to the library’s plans to build before such a levy could be assessed. — Caitlin Mullin, Daily Chronicle, Thursday, January 6, 2011 11:45 p.m. CST. Read full article here.

Forgive me for beleaguering the point. From the moment I received news of the library’s pending purchase of the DeKalb Clinic properties my concern was that an appointed board appeared to have accumulated public dollars to purchase real estate for a new library without city council approval. This appointed board had numerous Open Meetings Act violations over the past few years as they built their fund balance, negotiated a purchase and planned a 90,000 sq. ft. new library.

When I formally asked the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor office to review the possible OMA violations I stated my goal was to get the library board to follow the law and in public sunlight. State statutes clearly demand that the library district as a component unit must submit any such plans for approval of the municipal authority (city council).

Library attorney, Gary Cordes, told former Chronicle reporter, Elena Grimm, and me, that the board had approved a contract to purchase the DeKalb Clinic property (in a closed session meeting) and that the library had accumulated and had on hand the funds necessary to make the $1.8 million purchase price.

It certainly looked like the library had the funds to make the purchase to Rudy Espiritu, assistant city manager, in this June 11, 2010 email to Mark Biernacki, city manager:

Library director, Dee Coover, in a January 4, 2010 email that included Biernacki and Espiritu, wrote: “Our tax levy was based on a $2 million cost — including demolition, security, possible extra staffing.”

According to reports, since the library board abandoned the former DeKalb Clinic project in October, they will now apply the “contingency tax levy funds” towards the library’s involvement with the Prairie Area Library System (PALS). The official reason for abandoning the project was for environmental concerns.

What if those environmental concerns had not canceled the purchase? What if no one had said anything about the OMA violations?

My guess is the city council would be discussing selling debt bonds to fund a one stop government center. There’s some logic to that guess. On the same night the library board approved the amount for their tax levy they also voted to pay a $20,000-some architect bill for services related to a new library. Wendell Johnson said that the City of DeKalb had agreed to pay half of those costs.

If the library board considered following the law then a plan with cost estimates would have been presented to the city council. A public hearing and first and second readings would allow public discussion and feedback with their elected representatives.

Instead not a member of the appointed library board or paid administration even bothered to show up to a city council meeting when their $1.8 million tax levy was on the agenda.

3 COMMENTS

  1. A case of the fox watching the hen house. Council will conveniently overlook the legal transgressions of this library board and director appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council because the city has something to gain. By the way, just how much does it cost to participate in Prairie Library System’s inter-library loan program anyway? I know Malta has participated for years and their total library budget is way less than a tenth of DPL’s. So, it doesn’t take a couple million dollars to exchange books. This crowd will hang on to that illegally gotten tax levied “building fund” money until they are all sitting in jail. Of course we all know that won’t happen with the current administration in power. The arrogance in DeKalb politics is unbelievable!

  2. Letter to DeKalb City Council:

    Attached are electronic copies of email correspondence obtained through FOIA. They clearly contradict staff’s position that no funds were accumulated nor levied for acquiring property and/or expanding the library. Further proof would be obtained by asking the library director what would have happened had the environmental concerns not been discovered which allegedly canceled the purchase of the DeKalb Clinic properties.

    Just recently, the library has passed their own “ordinance” authorizing them to accumulate up to $2 million in funds to expand the library. This ordinance is in violation of 75 ILCS 5/5‑1 et seq which states the corporate authority must approve the accumulation of funds and/or expansion of the library. This ordinance should be brought to the city council for your consideration and approval (or not). If not, it should be stricken.

    I would LOVE to put this issue behind me but the library board must comply with the law.

    Mac McIntyre

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