A former employee of the Carol Stream Public Library says she was wrongfully terminated because she didn't support an ill-fated request to raise taxes to build a new facility.
Linda DeRango, who was fired as a circulation desk clerk and receptionist in February 2007, charges that administrators made active support of the April 2007 referendum question a "'de facto' term and condition of continued employment and advancement," according to a suit filed in federal court last month by her attorney, Timothy Bridge.
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Those named in the suit against the library are Director Ann Kennedy, Head of Circulation Mary Clemens and Human Resources Administrator Fran Venegas.
Kennedy said she has been advised not to discuss the lawsuit or why DeRango was fired.
The suit charges that Kennedy sought out library staff members to pass out campaign buttons, post yard signs, give out "vote yes" fliers, participate in phone canvassing, and attend meetings of the Carol Stream Library Referendum Committee. The suit also contends Kennedy told staffers who didn't want to support the referendum proposal to "keep that to yourself" when talking with library patrons.
In the suit, DeRango says she openly criticized the proposal and, as a result, "became subject to increased scrutiny and unfounded allegations of performance deficiencies by and at the direction of Kennedy, Clemens and Venegas."
DeRango had been employed for more than 11 years at the library. The suit notes she received a salary increase in 2006 in part because of good job performance.
DeRango says in the suit that her opposition to the tax increase was protected speech under the First Amendment.
And she says she's been denied subsequent employment with the library in retaliation for opposing the tax increase and subsequently supporting anti-tax candidates.
DeRango herself filed to run for the library district's board of trustees in the April 2009 election, but her name was pulled from the ballot because she improperly filed for both an open 2-year term and a 4-year term.
A slate of candidates she supported remained on the ballot, including her husband David DeRango, Michael Wade, Dominick Jeffrey and Joshua Jeffrey.
Of those candidates, Wade won election to a 4-year term.
David DeRango and the Jeffreys are running for positions on the board again this election.
The DeRangos refused to comment on the lawsuit. David DeRango said he's not running for the board in response to his wife's firing.
"This was decided well beforehand. Whatever my wife does, that's hers. This is totally separate," he said.
In the lawsuit, Linda DeRango is seeking to get her job back, back pay with interest, compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees.
A status hearing is scheduled for March 1.
This isn't the first time a former employee has sued the library for wrongful termination.
Elaine Wierdak, a circulation desk clerk and coordinator, claimed in her suit that she was fired in April 2009 for campaigning for Dominick Jeffrey, whom she lived with. The suit was dismissed last September.