Trustees stir controversy at Gurnee's Warren-Newport library in attempt to obtain documents
Warren-Newport Public Library District Executive Director Stephen Bero says two elected board members violated policy when they sought personnel and financial documents at the administrative offices in Gurnee last week.
Bero said board President Socrates Rivers and Vice President Ron Friedman did not have authorization when they entered a restricted area on Feb. 14. He said the policy prohibiting such action applies to the general public and elected officials.
"To provide for the safety and security of patrons, employees and the facilities at the Warren-Newport Public Library District, only authorized visitors are allowed in the staff-only areas," according to the policy. "Restricting unauthorized visitors helps maintain safety standards, protects against theft, ensures security of equipment, protects confidential information, safeguards employee welfare, and avoids potential distractions and disturbances."
Bero said he doesn't know why Rivers and Friedman wanted the personnel and financial documents. The library's business manager refused to allow them to have the documents, Bero said.
Rivers and Friedman did not respond to emailed questions on why they sought the records or to address criticism from two board members.
"This is a Warren-Newport Public Library board matter and will be handled as such by the full board," Rivers said in an email to the Daily Herald.
Bero, who plans to retire July 31, sent an email to all six library board trustees after the visit by Rivers and Friedman, reminding elected officials that policies should be followed. He said he reiterated to library employees that they must follow and enforce all polices.
Trustee Jo Beckwith said she arrived at the library while Friedman and Rivers were there. Beckwith said she had received advance permission to enter the restricted area to file paperwork in her role as board secretary.
Beckwith said library board members should be at the forefront of ensuring employees have a comfortable workplace.
"We shouldn't be the ones making it unsafe," she added.
Trustee Andrea Farr Capizzi read a statement at a meeting this week questioning the unannounced visit by the two men. She said Rivers and Friedman should apologize for their "rash and irresponsible behavior."
Last year, Friedman received a public scolding, or censure, by a majority of board members who claimed his conduct was unbecoming as an elected official. Friedman responded that the move was a "grown-up version of being bullied by a group of kids on the playground."
Elected officials elsewhere have landed in controversy after interacting with employees of a public institution they represent.
For example, former Grayslake Elementary District 46 board member Michael Carbone was censured by his colleagues when he tried to learn the number of substitute teachers used on Feb. 22, 2011. He said he wanted to know if full-time teachers skipped work to attend pro-union rallies in Madison, Wis.