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Library Trustee Grilled Over Testifying on Behalf of Former Director

Morton Grove Public Library Board questions trustee for the second time in two months.

During last night’s heated Board meeting, Trustee Dan Hoffman was questioned for the second time in two months over accusations that he violated the library board bylaws during a discussion that turned acrimonious.

“Again we have to bring attention to Trustee Hoffman,” said Board President Mark Albers. “This time he’s violated his judiciary duties as a trustee to the residents of Morton Grove.”

Earlier: .

Albers said Hoffman had violated the bylaws after “voluntarily” testifying on behalf of former library director Ben Schapiro during an appeal hearing. The hearing was to determine whether or not Schapiro would receive unemployment benefits from the state of Illinois after resigning under pressure.

, according to documents obtained by Patch through a Freedom of Information Act request. The papers also shed light on the circumstances surrounding Schapiro’s resignation and allegations of “fraud” and “conspiracy” leveled against Schapiro and former board members by current Library Board members.

Since the election last April, monthly board meetings have shown divisions between new and old members. Members of the previous board still serving include Hoffman and Arthur Goldstein. New members Paul Berg, Catherine Peters, David Calimagran and Albers ran under the party name B-PAC, an acronym of their last names. Trustee Christa Quinn was appointed at the April board meeting.

“At the appeal hearing Trustee Hoffman voluntarily testified on Mr. Schapiro’s behalf and against the library,” Albers said. “(Hoffman) was not under a subpoena to appear and thus appeared voluntarily against the library. Mr. Schapiro was subsequently awarded (unemployment) benefits.”

Conflict of library board interests

Albers cited the library’s bylaws, specifically “that board members should refrain from conflicts of interest and Trustee Hoffman’s actions were in conflict with the library.”

According to the Morton Grove Public Library Board bylaws, article VII section 2: “It is incumbent upon any trustee to disqualify himself/herself immediately whenever the appearance of a conflict of interest exists.”

“I was asked questions under oath by a judge and answered them truthfully,” said Hoffman.

“Unbelievable … unbelievable,” Board Treasurer Catherine Peters added, shaking her head.

Albers told Hoffman that he “had a duty to ...” before being cut-off by Hoffman.

“To lie under oath?” Hoffman interjected.

Albers said Hoffman could have elected not to go under oath during Schapiro’s appeal hearing. But Hoffman denied that testifying on behalf of Schapiro was a violation.

“Being asked questions by a judge, sworn in and answering them truthfully is not a violation of anything,” Hoffman said.

“And by the way, this is the first I’ve heard of this (violation),” Hoffman said. “Right at this very second.”

Hoffman added that he first saw the agenda on Tuesday after it was delivered to his home. He then said he immediately emailed Albers regarding the agenda item in question, but said he did not receive a response before the meeting. This marks the second time in two months Hoffman has been questioned over board violations.

“You can keep doing it and it’s just silly,” Hoffman said. “It’s petty and it’s stupid.”

The first and unrelated violation was addressed on Nov. 10 after Hoffman was questioned about . During last night's meeting, Hoffman spoke against approving the minutes from the Nov. 10 board meeting, saying he had a right to record the closed session meeting. Approval of minutes from the Nov. 10 board meeting was tabled for coporate counsel review since counsel was absent from last night's meeting.

Former director was initially denied benefits

According to the board, Schapiro was initially denied unemployment benefits, but the ruling was overturned.

“And we all knew that was coming,” Hoffman said. “That was discussed in other open and closed meetings — that it was worth a shot to try and deny his stuff.”

Library Board member Christa Quinn accused some board members of being “hypocritical” about the issue. She highlighted the first meeting involving new board members Berg, Peters, Albers and Calimag, who were elected earlier this year. She alleged there was a violation of the bylaws when it came to appointing leadership positions at that time. 

“And for that, I am very concerned that our leaders are holding people accountable to standards that they can’t uphold themselves,” Quinn said.

Quinn and Peters began arguing back and forth over the matter before Albers reclaimed order. In order to clarify, he told board members and residents in attedance once again that Hoffman voluntarily testified and the situation was a conflict of board interests.  

"It put the library in the position of having a trustee testifying in opposition to the position of the board," Ablers said.

"I didn’t lie," Hoffman said firmly.

"Good, you were under oath, you shouldn’t,” Albers added. And with that, the discussion was closed.

Lizzy T December 09, 2011 at 09:44 PM
I can't believe this is still going on with the Library! Ms. Quinn is wrong, there should be a set of standards that ALL need to adhere to. There has been far to much news about bad elected officials in Illinois on the news this week already. The new people elected to the board seem to be working hard and fixing past problems. Wasn't Ms. Quinn appointed before the new people took up their positions? This may explain her less than supportive viewpoint. But no matter what, I still see our Library serving the people and heard they are reducing our taxes for next year too., so let me say thanks.
M. Kim Jr. December 10, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Good time now for those not following laws to leave public service positions. Most pointedly must admit doing wrong and not working for the community interest. After Bloomberg Best Place award those dishonoring their offices by lying while holding elected positions should leave now and let others serve to show we are the best.
Carol R December 10, 2011 at 06:10 PM
There is more involved in serving the community then just going on witch hunts, firing employees, destroying morale. Certainly the tax levy must be managed but there has been too much overreaction. I'm glad Trustee Hoffman stood up for the former director; if he disagreed with the rest of the board it was the noble thing to do. I look forward to hearing about real progress with the Morton Grove Library rather than the next board-invented scandal of the month.
grandpa December 10, 2011 at 09:13 PM
We had WITCHES at the Morton Grove library?!? No wonder morale took a hit. I think that reducing the levy and the bite on the taxpayers, especially while libraries all around Morton Grove are raising their tax bite IS real progress. If Mr. Hoffman cannot seem to follow the rules he needs to either resign or be removed.
Lizzy T December 10, 2011 at 09:57 PM
Isn't burying our heads in the sand what allowed now former elected officials to break rules leading them to become wards of the state? Morale improves when light keeps shining on the activities of people we elect. If Mr. Hoffman broke bylaws and other regulations, this is not noble but far from it. If he disagreed with his fellow members, he should have stepped down like Agnes Quinn did. Maybe he should step down now. Lowering the tax bill is a mighty impressive accomplishment in my book and the current management of the library should be thanked and not accused of witch hunts and fostering bad morale.

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