Serving on local government boards is often a thankless “job.” Maybe there is a small stipend that helps cover a tiny percentage of the time spent helping serve the community—and maybe not—but even in the best of circumstances, the role is considered voluntary.
So, when citizens offer their time, we should offer our thanks in response. These are the people who work together to help strengthen our communities. Even if local government officials are disagreeable at times, even if they make decisions that some or most members of the public disagree with, the overwhelming majority of the time those officials are doing the best they can to make our communities better places in which to live and work.
Except on the Sugar Grove Public Library Board.
It is amazing to see the amount of incompetence and arrogance on a board whose primary functions should be to serve as good stewards for district taxpayers’ money and to help select and guide the leaders of the district who will help promote the library as an educational and cultural center of the community.
And yet, the Sugar Grove Public Library Board has turned itself into a disgrace, into a group in which personal grievances are what influences official decision making. The board could replace its “leadership,” President Joan Roth and Vice President Art Morrical, with a pair of 12-year-old children and one could expect an immediate increase in the maturity on the part of the board.
Essentially, the board, with no explanation at the time, fired long-time library director and community servant Beverly Holmes Hughes in July. After weeks of delay, the board gave vague, pointless reasons as to their decision, and wasted both time and money overpaying for a pair of interim directors. Finally, demonstrating a minimum ability to understand the desires of its constituents, the board recently decided to enter into mediation with Hughes, opening the door to her return, or at least a way forward.
That tiny amount of positive progress came to a screeching halt last week when the board voted 4-3 to change course and not pursue mediation. Voting to end any possible positive outcome for the library were Morrical, Roth and trustees Bob Bergman and Julie Wilson—Wilson had been the deciding vote in favor of mediation just two weeks prior.
Government officials are often tasked with the difficult responsibility to make decisions they feel are best for the communities in which they serve. Sometimes those decisions are popular, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made that many people disagree with, and the ones who make the tough call—despite the backlash—because they honestly believe their unpopular view is correct should be applauded for their political courage.
However, for Morrical, Roth, Bergman and Wilson—the four who voted to fire Hughes and voted last week to change course and not pursue mediation—their unpopular decisions have not been examples of political courage under fire. Rather, their decisions are examples of pettiness, arrogance and incompetence.
Their incompetence has led to the very real possibility that the library will have to close for a portion of the current fiscal year, due to lack of funds. Their arrogance damaged the library’s relationship with other community organizations, ultimately leading the Library Friends group to disband. Their pettiness has damaged the fragile trust citizens have in their government officials.
There is a way for the Library Board to begin to recover what it damaged, but we do not see a way for that recovery to occur as long as those four individuals remain on the board. It is time for Morrical, Roth, Bergman and Wilson to put the community’s interests before their own, and realize that the best thing they can do for the library, and the district as a whole, is to no longer be affiliated with either.
We urge them to step down, as soon as possible.
Even if we disagree with decisions made by officials, as long as those officials are making their decisions with the community interests at heart, we can agree to disagree. We do not believe those four are making decisions with the district’s interests at heart, and the moment that is no longer the driving force behind your volunteerism is the moment it is time to resign.