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updated: 7/19/2012 5:13 PM

Carol Stream Library board botches firing

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  • Ann Kennedy

      Ann Kennedy

  • Mike Wade

      Mike Wade

 
 

Ann Kennedy started cleaning out her desk Wednesday night after the Carol Stream Public Library board of trustees voted to dismiss her as library director.

Turns out, she wasn't really fired, the library's attorney said Thursday.

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But that doesn't mean the board won't try again.

Following a two-hour closed-door meeting Wednesday, the board voted 3-1 to dismiss Kennedy -- the apparent result of divergent views between Kennedy and a new board majority led by President Mike Wade.

But on Thursday morning, everyone involved learned the board bungled the firing because it didn't have enough votes to make it stick.

The library's bylaws require a majority of those trustees present to approve any recommendation. On Wednesday night, six of the seven board members were present, meaning those seeking to fire Kennedy needed four votes.

"Three out of six is not a majority," said library attorney Britt Isaly, who was not present at Wednesday's meeting. "She is still the library director."

Isaly said he "got the impression" the board will call for a special meeting to try to dismiss Kennedy again.

Kennedy said that meeting could come as early as Monday.

After Wednesday's meeting, Wade declined to say specifically why he proposed Kennedy's dismissal, but a four-page document distributed to trustees and later obtained by the Daily Herald lists several "issues of communication with the board" since 2009, when Wade was elected.

"This isn't personal. Every organization has changes. And this library, with a new board, is going in a different direction," Wade said after the meeting. "When you want to take the library in a different direction, sometimes you just need to make the hard decisions."

Kennedy, who has spent 20 years working at the library including the past six as director, said after the vote she was "mentally prepared" for it.

In May, the philosophical alignment of the board moved markedly to the right, with the appointment of two trustees, Susan Galle and Jerry Clark, who Wade met as organizer of the Chicago West Patriots Tea Party. Two other trustees already on the board, David DeRango and Dominick Jeffrey, previously ran on the same slate with Wade, in opposition to what they said were high library taxes and improper spending by Kennedy.

Many of them were outspoken opponents of earlier plans to construct a new library on library-owned property on Kuhn Road -- a proposal that's been rejected three times by voters. Kennedy predicted it's only a matter of time before the board considers selling that land, which the old board voted 4-3 to retain.

The appointments of new trustees by the board came after the resignation of two longtime board members, Robert Douglas, who became a DuPage County circuit court judge, and Tom Arends, who moved to Chicago.

On Wednesday, the board voted 5-0 to appoint Mary Clemens as interim director. If and when she assumes that role, Clemens will be wearing many hats: she officially started her new position as head of youth services on Monday. She also is handling duties from her old position, director of circulation, which is still unfilled.

The failed attempt to dismiss Kennedy comes just weeks after the library's assistant director, Pam Leffler, left to become director of the Morton Grove Public Library.

Galle, who was thought to be aligned with Wade's majority, abstained from the vote on dismissing Kennedy.

"No matter what I say it's not going to be a good decision," Galle said as she wiped back tears. "We haven't even picked an assistant director. Are we really looking out for the best interests of Carol Stream?"

"I think so," Wade responded.

"I don't know if we are, Mike," Galle said.

Joining Wade in the vote to dismiss was Jeffrey and Clark. DeRango abstained, Mary Hudspeath voted against and Jim Bailey was absent.

After the meeting adjourned, Hudspeath told Wade, "You should be ashamed of yourself. This should be to the benefit of the organization, not to the benefit of you."

Kennedy said the first time she saw Wade's list of grievances was during the closed session. She said Wade drafted a separation agreement with the help of Isaly, the library's attorney, without her knowledge.

As library attorney, Isaly said he respects Kennedy but he "works for all parts of the board of trustees."

Wade asked Kennedy to put an item on Wednesday's meeting agenda entitled "personnel matter," though she says at the time she didn't know it would be about losing her job.

"Anybody who's accused of a crime usually knows what they are accused of before they go to trial," Kennedy said she told Wade. "He said, 'This isn't a trial.' But that's what it turned out to be."

"They waited until tonight to sideswipe me," she said.

Kennedy was told she had 21 days to sign the separation agreement, but she doesn't plan to -- whether she was legally dismissed or not. She's wary of the document since it doesn't address whether she would get to keep 110 hours of compensation time and seven weeks of vacation time she says she's accrued.

"I want them to have the guts to fire me," she said Wednesday.

Wade said the library's personnel director will be responsible for collecting resumes of interested applicants for the director position and the board will make the selection.

"There has to be conversations with the staff and there has to be a strategy to plan how to go about getting that director," Wade said. "The process will take as long as it takes to get the best director."

As she locked up her office late Wednesday night, Kennedy choked up as she addressed three employees.

"You will be open (Thursday) and you will continue to give good service," she told them. "The library will come to a screeching halt in many areas, but not in its service to its customers."

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