Decision to cancel immigration rights event upsets Arlington Heights residents

The Arlington Heights Memorial Library's decision to cancel an immigrants' rights workshop over security concerns still has people talking more than a week later.

On Saturday, a protest outside the library garnered some 250 people rallying in support of the library and immigrants.

On Tuesday night, three residents addressed library board members about the controversy at a meeting attended by about 30. The meeting was moved to a larger conference room from the smaller boardroom.

“The bigotry that happens on rare occasions should not be the cause for disassemblement of a program that was put in place,” said T. Aaron DeGeorge, who plans to run as a Democrat in the 53rd District state House race. “We need to stand up to bigotry and stand up for people lower on the totem pole. We just can't keep stomping on people because they look different.”

The “Know Your Rights” workshop, originally scheduled for Sept. 25, was meant to teach immigrants what to do and say when in contact with immigration and police officers and how to prepare “emergency kits” if they're at risk for detention.

The event was canceled after the library's switchboard and board President Deb Smart received phone calls described as threatening from those opposed to the event. Library officials said they canceled the event out of safety concerns but have suggested they may reschedule it at a different location.

Also Tuesday, the library board unanimously approved a separation agreement with former Executive Director Jason Kuhl, who submitted his resignation Sept. 25.

The agreement, which library officials say was “mutually agreed,” provides Kuhl with $73,226.50, or about six months of his $147,178 salary. The library will also provide Kuhl and his family with health insurance benefits for up to six months.

“It reflects payment compensatory with time served in our library and service he has provided to us,” Smart said.

Kuhl, who had been executive director since June 2012, has said he resigned for undisclosed “personal reasons.” He said he did not have an employment contract with the library board.

Smart has said she “isn't drawing any correlations” between Kuhl's resignation and the canceled immigration event.

Library officials did not release a copy of the separation agreement before or after Tuesday night's vote. And about an hour before the board meeting began, the library extended by five days a deadline to respond to the Daily Herald's Sept. 27 Freedom of Information Act request, which in part asked for any and all separation or severance agreements with Kuhl.

The board Tuesday also took a formal vote to confirm their appointment last week of Mike Driskell, the library's director of administration, as acting executive director.

“I know you've stepped up at quite an interesting time in our history,” Trustee Marianthi Thanopoulos told Driskell. “Thank you for your service and dedication. And moving forward, I hope library staff and the community will stand beside you.”

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