Attorney: New Carol Stream Library board legitimate
Attorney says newly elected Carol Stream officials had right to take oath early
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A contract is pending to sell 7.5 acres owned by the Carol Stream Public Library, but a final deal may not happen.
Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer
The five elected trustees sworn in Wednesday are now the properly seated members of the Carol Stream Library board, the library's attorney said Thursday night.
The three-page written legal opinion by Stewart Diamond of the Ancel Glink law firm apparently answers a legal question that left direction and oversight of the library in limbo for 24 hours.
Outgoing board President Mike Wade had scheduled a special meeting for May 8 to vote on a contract to sell a vacant 7.5-acre site at 2N540 Kuhn Road, which was purchased by the library in 2003 with intentions of constructing a new library there.
In an attempt to prevent such a sale from taking place, the five newly elected board members were sworn in Wednesday night — two weeks earlier than planned.
Wade, a longtime opponent of plans for a new library, said he believed his term didn't end until May 15 — the time of the next regularly scheduled board meeting — and he intended to serve until that time, unless the library's attorneys told him differently.
Jim Bailey, the board vice president and a member of the five-person Support the Library slate that defeated Wade's Support Your Library slate in the April election, maintained the newly sworn in trustees are now in charge.
In his letter to library Director Susan Westgate, Diamond wrote that state statute indicates newly elected officials have the ability, by taking an oath of office, to place themselves in their elected positions in advance of a regularly scheduled meeting.
"Although we can raise a number of questions about practicality and predictability, we believe that a court would recognize the swearing in of the newly elected candidates as placing them into the offices for their term," Diamond said. "For certainly and predictability, it might be more desirable for these individuals to wait until the next regular meeting of the library board was half over and old business had been resolved before seeking to begin their term. Having chosen not to do that, we still think that the law favors their position."
There is no language in the statutes or library bylaws that guarantees a previously elected trustee a "perfect four-year term," Diamond said.
As a result of the transition, Diamond told Westgate the outgoing board cannot "meet or have the power to direct your operations."
While there is a new library board in place, what remains unsettled is the fate of plans to sell the Kuhn Road property.
ManorCare, a Toledo, Ohio-based nursing home company, has agreed to purchase the Kuhn Road property for $1.35 million, down from the original $1.8 million asking price.
David Zajicek, a Lisle attorney who represents ManorCare, said the company is still interested in the purchase and is willing to work with the new library board.
"We still want to buy the property and we are happy to continue the negotiations — or not — but we really would prefer to continue our negotiations like we did before and hopefully we can purchase the property," Zajicek said.
Zajicek said he had a "pleasant" conversation Wednesday with Bailey, who mentioned "internal differences" on the previous board.
"If there's a new board to discuss it with, fine," Zajicek said Thursday. "If there's a new board that doesn't want to discuss it at all, that's life. But we certainly want the opportunity to discuss it."
He said ManorCare wants to build a skilled nursing care facility, which also may include an Alzheimer's care component.
"ManorCare is a top-of-the-line national developer/owner/operator of first-class, long-term skilled care nursing homes," Zajicek said. "We would make a very good neighbor and business owner in the Carol Stream community, especially given the need of our aging population in the Carol Stream area."
Sheryl Duncan of Realty Executives, who was hired by the board in November to sell the property, said she hadn't spoken to the library director, attorney or any trustees. She said she isn't sure what's happening with the pending sale.
"I'm waiting for some direction," Duncan said. "All I know is my contract is for the board of library trustees and that's who I'm working for. I will be just as happy to work for them as I did the (outgoing) board."
Members of the new board previously expressed reservations with selling the land — particularly in their responses to Daily Herald candidate questionnaires from the recent election.
Bailey was the lone trustee to vote against putting the property on the market when it was proposed by Wade in November.
After being sworn in this week, Bailey said the new board will "proceed with caution" as new trustees come up to speed on the Kuhn Road issue.
"The philosophy of the new board is to slow down and take our time to be careful and make decisions in the best interests of the community — whether the board wants to sell or not," Bailey said.
Trustee Nadia Sheikh said her personal view is that the land is a "valuable asset to the community," but she's looking forward to sitting down with the new board as a whole to discuss the pros and cons of a sale.
However, she said a "quick and dirty sell-off by our previous board is not appropriate."
Trustee Edward Jourdan said he doesn't believe a sale would be right in the current economy and thinks the library should continue to pursue an intergovernmental agreement with the park district that would allow recreational use on the land.
He noted that the previous property owners, the Kammes family, intended the land to have some public use in the future.
"I'm not saying selling it isn't a good idea. I'm just not necessarily saying this is the right offer," Jourdan said. "If you put all politics aside right now, is this really the best offer, or is this really the best functionality for everyone concerned?"
Trustee Bonita Gilliam said selling the property, "certainly if it's under a push to get it done, is probably not a good idea."
Trustee Patricia Johnson declined to discuss her views on a potential sale.
Current Trustees Dominick Jeffrey and David DeRango, two Wade allies whose terms on the board expire in 2015, voted to put the property on the market.
Library: ManorCare still interested in property buy
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