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Article updated: 6/20/2013 11:22 AM

Carol Stream library board hires attorney to review contract

Robert McNees

Robert McNees

 
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The Carol Stream Library board has hired a local attorney to evaluate its contract with a nursing home company that wants to build on the library-owned vacant Kuhn Road property.

But some board members objected to the hiring of Robert McNees because of his connections with the board majority.

McNees, who has practiced law in Carol Stream since 1985, was a supporter of Board President Jim Bailey's Support the Library slate in the April election in which Bailey and four other candidates won all five open seats in a contentious 10-person race.

McNees was one of several names that appeared on an endorsement list that was used as STL campaign literature.

Trustee Dominick Jeffrey, who voted with David DeRango in the 5-2 minority against hiring McNees, asked McNees at the library board meeting Wednesday about his support for the STL slate and advocacy behind three previous referendum campaigns for building a new library at 2N540 Kuhn Road.

"I want a real objective look at this, not a tainted one," said Jeffrey, a longtime opponent of plans for a new library. "You've been involved in several referendums with (former Library Director) Ann Kennedy and (hosting) phone banks. You can see where that might raise my eyebrow quite a bit."

Jeffrey also pointed to McNees' friendship with Bailey and involvement in the Rotary Club of Carol Stream with Bailey and Kennedy.

Bailey admitted McNees is a friend, his personal attorney and attends the same church.

But McNees said his contract would be with the board as a whole, not any individual on board. He promised to review the contract and provide legal advice and said he's mindful that what "we're trying to do here is for the best of Carol Stream."

In response to his support of previous referendums, McNees said, "I make no bones about it, I supported each and every referendum to build a new library. I chaired one effort to get it done. The voters didn't agree with it."

Bailey said he wanted an outside commercial real estate attorney to provide "a fresh set of eyes" on the agreement in light of the "less than spectacular performance" by the board's current law firm, Ancel Glink, during its review of the contract.

Some things were overlooked, Bailey said, such as a portion of the contract saying "Crystal Lake" instead of "Carol Stream."

"It's not to cast aspersions on that firm," Bailey said. "But I want to make sure that we as a new board do what is right for the citizens of our community and do our homework."

The current board directed Library Director Susan Westgate to contact up to three law firms; she says she sent letters to McNees and attorneys in Wheaton and Winfield.

Bailey said only McNees responded.

McNees will have 90 days to review the contract and will bill the library at the same rate as Ancel Glink, $190 per hour.

Jeffrey and DeRango continued to push for a sale of the 7.5-acre property Wednesday night. Bailey was the lone vote against putting the property up for sale when it was proposed last fall, and new board members have also expressed reservations with a sale.

After former Board President Mike Wade and his Support Your Library slate lost in the April election, he announced at the old board's last regularly scheduled meeting April 17 that the board and ManorCare, the Toledo, Ohio-based nursing home company, agreed on a $1.35 million purchase price for the property.

Since the contract language had not yet been finalized, Wade scheduled a special board meeting May 8 to vote on a contract.

But a week before, the newly elected board was sworn in -- likely an attempt to prevent the outgoing board from trying to sell the land.

The swearing-in was to take place at the next regularly scheduled board meeting May 15, but library attorneys determined the early oath-taking to be legal following certification of election results by the DuPage County Election Commission.

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