Can Carol Stream have two library boards at the same time?
Wednesday marked yet another unusual twist in what has become one of DuPage County's most unusual political sagas, when the newly elected board was sworn in two weeks earlier than scheduled -- all in an attempt to prevent the outgoing board from trying to sell a 7.5-acre piece of property once intended for a new library.
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The five-person Support the Library slate swept all five available trustee positions in the April 9 election, unseating a 5-2 majority that came to power last year under Board President Mike Wade.
On Wednesday night, each of the newly elected trustees came one by one into the library's business conference room to take the oath of office from DuPage County Associate Judge Rob Douglas, the former library board president who stepped down last year when he was appointed to the bench.
The election results were certified Tuesday by the DuPage County Election Commission, and the official canvassing documents were delivered to the library Wednesday by Village Manager Joe Breinig. Receipt of the official results enabled the incoming trustees -- incumbent board Vice President Jim Bailey and newcomers Bonita Gilliam, Patricia Johnson, Edward Jourdan and Nadia Sheikh -- to be sworn in, per state law, Bailey said.
The Illinois Local Library Act states that the terms of existing board members end when their successors are sworn in -- and the oath of office doesn't have to take place at a formal board meeting, according to Phil Lenzini, a Peoria-based attorney who represents 250 public libraries throughout the state.
Each new trustee left after he or she was sworn in, so as not to be in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act, which forbids three or more trustees from discussing library business together without providing public notice of a formal meeting.
Library Director Susan Westgate said the original intention was to conduct the oaths at the next regularly scheduled board meeting May 15. That's exactly a week after a special board meeting was scheduled to occur at Wade's request to consider the "disposition of the Kuhn Road property," according to a meeting agenda posted Wednesday -- just hours before the newly elected trustees were sworn in.
The status of the May 8 meeting is unclear.
Wade said he believes his term expires on May 15 and plans to be board president until then.
"I am president until the library attorney tells me I'm not president. I had a 4-year term. My four years end May 15," Wade said. "This is unprecedented, as far as library boards go, to try to curtail somebody's term of office."
Bailey said once the new board was seated, the old board became "history."
"It's unfortunate we have to react this way. We thought Mr. Wade and his crew would go away quietly," Bailey said. "He's desperately trying to muddy the waters and keep himself involved until his last dying gasp, and his last dying gasp takes place (Wednesday)."
The outgoing board held its last regularly scheduled meeting April 17, when Wade announced that the library board and a nursing home company agreed on a $1.35 million purchase price for the library-owned land at 2N540 Kuhn Road. The deal, however, hadn't been finalized, pending a formal contract subject to the board's approval. Wade at the time indicated he could call a special board meeting up until May 15 to vote on a contract.
Bailey said an email chain forwarded to the outgoing board shows the nursing home company's attorney telling the library's attorney that he understood a deal needed to be in place before the new board was scheduled to be seated May 15 -- perhaps underscoring new board members' urgency in taking the oath.
"We need to make sure we have a functioning board without interruption," Bailey said. "Why are we willing to do this? Because we want to make sure the library is protected and we're good stewards of the library's property and the citizens' money."
Members of the outgoing board on Monday were sent a copy of the contract that had been negotiated by Realtors and attorneys. Wade, a longtime opponent of plans to build a new library, was empowered by the board to accept any offers above a certain amount.
Wade accused Bailey of contacting the nursing home company's Realtor -- when he was not authorized to do so -- to try to "intimidate" the prospective buyer.
"I know Jim would like to take $1.3 million out of the hands of the community of Carol Stream," Wade said. "He doesn't seem to be thinking very highly of his fiduciary responsibility."
Bailey denied having any communication with the prospective buyer.
Trustee Dominick Jeffrey, a Wade ally who will remain on the board with David DeRango, said Bailey and the new board members are trying to dissolve the deal on the property so they can build a new library -- a notion that's been rejected three times by voters.
"The board went from right to far left," Jeffrey said.
Douglas' mandatory resignation from the board partially set in motion the appointment of new trustees that shifted the majority. Douglas and Bailey were regularly opposed by Wade, Jeffrey and DeRango, who first sought to sell the Kuhn Road property in 2011 but at the time didn't have enough votes.
Wade said Douglas as a judge was stepping outside his bounds by getting involved in local politics and trying to "impede" the typical process of swearing in new trustees.
Douglas said he was scheduled to swear in the new trustees May 15 but was asked by board members and the library director if he could administer the oaths earlier.
"I was requested to make myself available and I did," Douglas said. "I've been asked to do this one and the Carol Stream village board (on May 6) and I did it because it's my hometown."
Westgate said she was planning to send an email Wednesday night to the library's Realtor, attorney and outgoing board members that new trustees had been sworn in.
Bailey, as the president pro tempore, said he's directed Westgate to be the Realtor's point of contract with respect to the Kuhn Road property until further notice.