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updated: 6/10/2012 6:19 AM

Warren-Newport library board trustee at odds with colleagues

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  • Ron Friedman, a Warren-Newport Public Library trustee, tapes a Lake County Housing Authority meeting in 2011.

      Ron Friedman, a Warren-Newport Public Library trustee, tapes a Lake County Housing Authority meeting in 2011.
    Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

  • Laurie Styrcula

      Laurie Styrcula

  • Steve Weinberg 

      Steve Weinberg 

  • Ron Friedman

      Ron Friedman

 
 

A Warren-Newport Public Library District trustee, who considers himself an activist and frequently questions another local government agency, is being publicly scrutinized by fellow board members for his in-meeting conduct.

Trustee Ron Friedman has been questioned by his peers on whether he still lives within district boundaries and criticized for videotaping a board meeting, among other issues.

Trustee Steve Weinberg, who's been on the library board for 10 years, said the friction with Friedman is taking a toll on how the elected officials conduct the public's business. Weinberg said Friedman's conduct at meetings clouds the good ideas he offers on fundraising and other issues.

"I would say that he's made the meetings less productive and longer, and he's created an animosity among the board that didn't exist before," Weinberg said.

But Friedman said he's not doing anything wrong as he goes about his business as a library board trustee.

"I'm not looking to be an adversary of the board," he said. "I support the board."

Friedman's residency arose at a January meeting. Minutes from the session state he declined to answer whether he had any breaks in living within district borders, which would affect his ability to serve as a trustee.

Library board President Laurie Styrcula said she was compelled to ask Friedman about his residency because he replaced a home address in unincorporated Warren Township with a Gurnee post office box number for an updated board roster. She said he also had his official listing changed from "Ronald J. Friedman" to "Ron Friedman."

Officials aren't actively pursuing the residency matter, Styrcula said, because records show Friedman remains the taxpayer at the home address he had originally listed with the district. She said it's difficult to prove he lives elsewhere short of having him followed.

"It causes disharmony among the board if there is a feeling of evasiveness or a lack of trust," Styrcula said.

In an interview, Friedman said where he lives is not an issue.

"I did answer them," he said. "I was in no violation of any residency requirements."

Friedman said problems with other Warren-Newport library officials began after a Daily Herald story in May 2011 detailed his use of the alias Judah Soledad when addressing the Grayslake-based Lake County Housing Authority board during public comment time.

Explaining his use of the Soledad moniker at the housing agency, Friedman at the time said it allowed him to separate his roles as a library board member and civic activist. His presence was most recently listed in the housing authority's April 19 board meeting minutes.

"Ronald Friedman spoke," the minutes state. "He declared he used the alias name Judah Soledad. He stated he began taping (housing) board meetings in February and airing them on a public-access channel as Alias Activist. He expressed a concern about fiscal mismanagement and procedures not being followed. He noted he would continue to investigate (the housing authority) and other quasi-municipal agencies."

Friedman brought his video equipment to a Warren-Newport library board meeting in April that had a presentation about long-range planning. Styrcula said Friedman was a distraction to board members whenever he adjusted the camera he set up on a tripod.

However, Friedman said his videotaping should not be seen as a problem. He said the video from the April meeting can be provided as a service to taxpayers.

"They're open meetings," Friedman said. "And it's within anyone's right to record them."

Friedman was elected to a six-year library board term in April 2009. He competed with four candidates for two open seats and received 2,500 votes.

• Daily Herald staff writer Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.

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