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updated: 3/12/2014 5:13 AM

Gurnee library executive director under fire

Retiring Gurnee director defends himself against board president's claims

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  • Stephen Bero

      Stephen Bero

 
 

Warren-Newport Library District board President Socrates Rivers outlined what he said have been several problems with the financial performance by the retiring executive director at a packed meeting Tuesday night.

Stephen Bero, who has led the library for the past nine years, was placed in the spotlight by Rivers soon after several in the overflow crowd of more than 100 spectators voiced support for the administrator.

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Rivers said Bero has been responsible for financial missteps including not getting about $200,000 in property tax money through a levy the Gurnee-based library district should have received last year.

"We were able to manage that $200,000 less from the levy," Rivers said.

Speaking after Rivers, Bero defended himself by saying "money was left on the table" to keep taxes as low as possible on property owners in a difficult economy.

Last month, Bero contended Rivers and board Vice President Ron Friedman violated an internal policy when they unsuccessfully sought personnel and financial documents at the library's administrative offices.

During public comment time, several speakers questioned the motivations of Rivers and Friedman. A petition called "Save WNPL," which was circulated in the crowd during Tuesday's meeting, claimed the board is in a "state of turmoil" because of Friedman and Rivers.

In part, the petition asks the library board to abide by its policies and post meeting agendas in a timely manner.

Gurnee resident Barbara Dwyer said she did not want the board to dismiss Bero, who has announced his retirement effective July 31.

"You can do it (fire Bero), otherwise you'll hear from me," Dwyer said.

Bero, 59, has overseen many changes in his time as the library's boss including a significant renovation and expansion that was completed in 2011.

He's said his retirement plans include becoming a "househusband" because his wife wants to re-enter the workforce. Bero expects to be busy at home in the daytime with a son entering first grade next fall and a 1-year-old boy.

Founded by volunteers in 1973, Warren-Newport Public Library serves about 67,000 residents. The library's 55-square-mile boundary covers all or most of Warren and Newport townships, including Gurnee, Wadsworth, Park City, Wildwood, Grandwood Park, Old Mill Creek, and portions of Grayslake, Millburn, Lake Villa, Libertyville and Waukegan.

Twitter: @DHBobSusnjara

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