Carol Stream library director: 'No doubt this was personal'
Carol Stream Public Library Director Ann Kennedy fired Linda DeRango from her job as a circulation desk clerk in 2007 and Elaine Wierdak from the same job two years later.
The library director's reason: poor performance. Both women responded by filing wrongful termination lawsuits against Kennedy and the library.
In 2011, the women's significant others, David DeRango and Dominick Jeffrey, were elected to the library board. And on Wednesday, the two trustees joined two other board members in voting to dismiss Kennedy.
Their reason: poor performance.
Now Kennedy could decide to file a wrongful termination suit of her own, in what is fast becoming a vicious cycle of firings and litigation at the library on Hiawatha Drive.
Kennedy said Thursday she will review her legal options with her attorney.
"I have not made a decision about wrongful termination," she said.
In a wide-ranging interview, Kennedy said she believes DeRango and Jeffrey were seeking revenge when they ran for office. She criticized DeRango for casting a vote to fire her while his wife's suit is still pending in federal court.
Jeffrey's girlfriend's suit was settled out of court in 2010.
"There's no doubt this is personal," said Kennedy, who was library director for six years and worked there for a total of 20.
The board voted to fire her for a second time Wednesday after its initial vote a week earlier failed on a technicality. The first vote was 3-1 in favor of her firing with two abstentions -- including DeRango, who said he didn't vote because of a potential conflict of interest. Library bylaws require a majority of trustees present to approve any recommendation.
Library attorney Britt Isaly told DeRango this week there wouldn't be a conflict if he voted.
DeRango joined Jeffrey, Wade and Jerry Clark in voting to fire Kennedy in a 4-2 vote.
"There's always a difference between what's legal and ethical," Kennedy said.
DeRango and Jeffrey have maintained their votes were based solely on Kennedy's performance and board President Mike Wade told residents Wednesday the firing wasn't personal.
He cited "communication issues" with Kennedy over the course of three years that he's been on the board, but it's also clear Wade and Kennedy were on opposite ends long before that.
Kennedy said she recalled hearing of Wade in 2005 -- during the library's second failed tax increase referendum effort to build a new facility on Kuhn Road. She says she heard more from him the next time the library went to referendum in 2007.
"The rhetoric kicked up because it coincided with the firing of Linda DeRango," Kennedy said.
In fact, Wade wrote a letter to the Carol Stream Press published Oct. 17, 2007, in opposition to a proposed 1.45 percent library tax levy increase in which he called for Kennedy's firing.
"The library board has not been responsible to our community by keeping Library Director Ann Kennedy employed," he wrote.
Wade said Thursday he supported Kennedy's firing at the time because "we were getting a referendum rammed down our throat."
"Nobody on that board or the director was listening to the public," Wade said. "I wanted the board and the library to listen to the community … I've never had a personal grudge. Ann had her viewpoints on the direction for the library and I had mine and they differed at times and they were in sync at times."
In 2009, Wade ran on a slate with DeRango and Jeffrey in opposition to what they said were high library taxes and improper spending by Kennedy. Wade got elected that year, and DeRango and Jeffrey two years later.
"Once Mike Wade got on the board and when Jeffrey and DeRango got on the board, I knew this board would have different dynamics and there would be challenges ahead," Kennedy said. "Sometimes I would say the sky was blue and they'd argue with me."
Still, Kennedy said board President Rob Douglas served as a unifying force among the differing views until he stepped down this year to become a DuPage County circuit court judge.
"I knew my job was in jeopardy when Rob left," Kennedy said. "I saw the writing on the wall when he stepped down."
Kennedy, who served as president of the Carol Stream Chamber of Commerce board for the past two years, decided not to run again this year when Douglas left because she wasn't sure she'd still have her job at the library.
Not long after, Tom Arends -- a potential swing vote on the divided board -- moved to Chicago and vacated his trustee position.
With 12 candidates applying for the two open positions, the board chose Jerry Clark and Susan Galle -- two people Wade met through organizing his Chicago West Patriots Tea Party.
Galle joined Mary Hudspeath, a vocal Kennedy supporter, in voting against Wade's recommendation to fire Kennedy.
Kennedy, 55, a Hanover Park resident, said she's going to take the rest of the summer off before looking for jobs. She said she wants to be a library director again and left open the door she could apply for her old job in Carol Stream should a new board be elected next April.
Wade, whose four-year term is up in April, said he doesn't fear voter retaliation.
"I do run the risk of irritating the voter base and I'll find that out next year. I hope I don't," he said. "I hope this was a good decision. I feel it was a good decision. I feel it will benefit the community in the long run."