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Library Board Votes To Remove Executive Director

After a tense special meeting Thursday, the board passed a motion on a 4–3 vote to prepare and execute a separation agreement with director Ben Schapiro.

Board members of the Morton Grove Public Library passed a motion to oust Executive Director Ben Schapiro at a contentious meeting Thursday.

Following a 4–3 vote, the board decided to prepare a separation agreement with Schapiro and authorized President Mark Albers to execute the agreement. All four of the board members who voted yes to the measure are recently elected members who ran under the party name B-PAC, which is an acronym of the last names of Paul Berg, Catherine Peters, Albers and David Calimag. Secretary Daniel Hoffman, Arthur Goldstein and Christa Quinn all voted against the motion.

Visibly upset after the vote, Hoffman gave an unexpected announcement.

 “I will remain on the board, but not as secretary,” Hoffman said. He declined to say any more than that when approached by Patch after the meeting was adjourned.

Relations between members of the library board have been far from hunky-dory since the B-PAC members swept library elections in April, winning a majority presence and appointing Albers to president. A major point of debate has been the prospect of a forensic audit being conducted on the library’s finances.

An agenda for the meeting indicated only that it would focus on the retention of legal counsel, as well as a decision regarding the “appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal,” of a specific unnamed employee. The agenda gave little away, but it soon became apparent that there were serious matters at hand.

Shortly after roll call, Trustee Goldstein asked to make a statement. He said there were decisions already made on the board between certain members in advance to calling the session.

“In my opinion, this meeting is completely out of order,” said Goldstein. He called the proceedings "somewhat unethical."

Albers briskly thanked him for his statement and kept things moving to an executive session to decide on the retention of legal counsel, law firm Wolf and Tennant. As per village rules, the executive sessions were held away from the public, with citizens only allowed back into the boardroom for the official vote on the issue.

About 30 minutes later, residents were allowed back in to witness the board vote 4–3 to retain Wolf and Tennant. 

Prior to voting to remove Schapiro, the board held another executive session, this one lasting more than an hour. Yelling from inside the heated board room could be heard by meeting-goers waiting outside.

Tensions eventually leaked outside the boardroom doors. At one point a loud male voice inside the room bellowed, “That was not why the levy was raised this year!”

This fueled a debate outside the room among residents about the recent tax levy and sparked a brief altercation between former library trustee Renee Miller and treasurer Peters' husband, Gil.

What began with bickering and snide remarks launched from both sides soon escalated to screaming and name-calling, and ended with the other residents intervening to separate the two after Gil approached the woman.

“We have enough of that in there; we don’t need that out here,” one resident said, pleading for civility.

As of press time, it was unclear why exactly the board wanted to remove Schapiro, and officials at the meeting declined to comment on the topic, citing that executive session rules prohibited the discussion of topics addressed during the private deliberations. Patch was unable to reach Schapiro in time for publication.

Pat Craig July 10, 2011 at 01:25 PM
As Mr. Poders said, the truth will come out in due time. In the meantime, what we are getting here is idle gossip, speculation and vitriol... much heat and little light... entertaining though.
Dan Goldberg July 10, 2011 at 01:38 PM
Audits are used to find inefficiencies and correct them. It's not a bad thing when dealing with public money, especially if there are questions from the public. To be conducted properly, time is needed for preparation. There is a methodology to the process. Forensic auditors begin by taking all the accounts, inventories, assets, capital and other economic elements and determining how they should work together. To use a hypothetical example, if an auditor sees that a business grosses $1 million a year, assumptions are that the cash, new capital, inventories, taxes, payroll, rent and other costs add up to $1 million. Then looking at the profits, cash, et al. and checks how they ought to interact (e.g. in some cases, there is an systemic overlap between certain values, which the accountant would make note of so as not overcount). Once collected, all of the reported values (as well as caveats) establishing a model for how the each side of the balance sheet should read is the goal. This is to help make sure income and expenses are all being allocated properly and efficiently. Maximizing efficient use of income and assets is a good thing, but a proper review to find the correct outcome takes time and preparation to do it properly, even before the auditor is called in. I don't think this new Board has been in office more than a couple of months? Worth keeping an eye on, but a little patience and understanding my help us better understand the process.
Laura Frisch July 10, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Mr. Kansoer is very fast to dismiss this as news and mocks the firing of a Library Director and the concerned residents who have made their voice heard in this forum. This is the future of our library at stake, one of the important community centers for our village. I wonder why Mr. Kansoer is trying to bury this story and stop any further discussion in this open forum? Every resident should have the right to be heard and Patch.com offers this forum to our community at no cost to the tax payers. How much did Albers, Peters, Berg and Calimag, the four library trustees who voted to hire two additional attorneys, cost the tax payers of Morton Grove this past week alone?
Pat Craig July 10, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Actually Ms. Frisch, Mr. Kansoer waited a few days and re-read the story. I still don't have any evidence that the director was fired, (I was at that meeting as were you and the board voted 4-3 to authorize a separation agreement). Since the decision was made in executive session, unless a board member is giving you information about what happened, in violation of their legal duties, you are speculating as to the nature and motive behind the board's action. Regarding "burying" this "story", I have no power to do that. I do, however, as a concerned resident also have the same right to express my opinion on this forum as do you... and I will continue to do so. As someone who is close to an attorney, you of all people should understand the value of legal counsel. You are certainly entitled to opine that these actions were unnecessary... a stopped clock is accurate twice daily. In the meantime I will also continue to follow this unfolding drama with as much interest as some others follow "reality programming" on television. I see many similarities between the two.
Laura Frisch July 10, 2011 at 03:18 PM
I am not sure exactly what happened in the executive session, but do know that attorneys were hired by only 4 of the trustees and I know what a "separation agreement" means. Yes, I see four trustees voting a separation agreement with the library director as "firing" him, and I think many other residents see it as that as well. According to Audry H. "Nobody knows why the board requested Shapiro's resignation, or why Shapiro submitted his resignation" I didn't even know they requested his resignation or that Ben Schapiro submitted a resignation, maybe she has the information we, the public, are looking for? Maybe she has been talking with board members about these issues outside of the executive session, and which trustee might she have spoken with about this? You are right, Mr. Kansoer, we should all "continue to follow this."
Pat Craig July 10, 2011 at 04:08 PM
I too question where the "facts" surrounding the actions of the board in executive session are coming from. You have held a position on the board as have I. It was made quite clearly to me in my training as I am sure it was in yours that what happens in executive session is not made public without a vote from the board to do so. Any "leakage" is contrary to the legal duties of a trustee. I would admonish the trustees on both sides of the table to look well to their legal obligations as stewards of a public institution. I am pleased that we agree that this should be followed. I would hope that cooler heads will prevail here and we try to get true information rather than fanning the flames of controversy with rumor, acrimony and innuendo.
Renée Miller July 10, 2011 at 04:47 PM
It is also illegal and unethical for board members to discuss things outside of a board meeting. Based on Mr. Goldstein's comment for the record at the start of the meeting, some board members had ALREADY made decision about what was going to happen in the closed sessions. He implied that the new board members are behaving in unethical ways, not unusual for this group at all. A previous board member, who is one of their minions, often did the same thing causing the board to pass an amendment to the by-laws based on ALA rules that it is unethical to speak about board business outside of meetings or for two or more board members to discuss board business outside the board meetings. Seems like BPAC can't follow any rules unless they make them to suit their own needs.
Paul Young July 11, 2011 at 03:34 PM
At this point I will refrain from commenting on the opinions going back and forth, but I would like to give a heartfelt thanks to Ben Shapiro for his service to the community. I believe that Ben has done a wonderful job with the MG library and I always appreciated his opinions in regards to books and movies. I also appreciated his MBW style (Management by Walking around). I hope that the next Director can fill the shoes.
Jennifer Alvarado July 11, 2011 at 06:21 PM
I think I will do the wait and see what comes of this, maybe there will be a calm after the storm. As I heard that there was as much yelling and screaming inside the closed session as there was out of it. I hope that members of the board can actually agree on something, and that something being actually beneficial to the library patrons.
Casey Faust July 11, 2011 at 07:06 PM
What would being pregnant have to do with being capable of doing your job? Have we regressed that far! Some woman only take 6-8 weeks maternity leave. This is 2011 for heavens sake.
Casey Faust July 11, 2011 at 08:00 PM
As a matter of fact I have Ms. Erickson, and my pregnancy did not interfere with the transition. My appointments were made for after hours and I dealt with my morning sickness that did not interfere with my position in any way.
Audrey H July 11, 2011 at 09:53 PM
Ms. Frisch, I take great personal offense at your insinuation that I know more than is public knowledge. You are way off base, completely wrong, and way out of line. Read my posting again. I was tossing out a bunch of possible scenarios to emphasize the fact that we DO NOT know what happened in that Executive Session, yet a number of people were throwing around accusations as if they did know. Those two scenarios in particular to which you referred are very common when a massive change in leadership of an organization occurs, such as a change in the majority of a board of directors, and it is frequently described in such a way. All we do know for a fact was that the board authorized the acceptance of a separation agreement. That’s it. You can make your assumptions about what was behind that, as many people did on the postings, but do not put your assumptions forth as fact, and DO NOT accuse me or anyone else of lying, colluding, manipulating, or knowing more than is publicly known. THAT is shameful.
Larry Levin July 11, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Friends of the Morton Grove Public Library has filed (with the Secretary of State) an application for reinstatement of the non-profit status. The Secretary's office has requested additional information which will be provided shortly. The involuntary dissolution was the result of a lack of understanding of the type of reports which must be filed. The new executive leadership of the Friends is in the process of restructuring "job descriptions" to include responsibilities for filing all necessary paperwork.
Laura Frisch July 11, 2011 at 11:02 PM
Audrey "H" I was simply asking questions. Once again I must point out, this is an open forum, just as the library board meetings are supposed to be open as well. Some of us stand behind our statements by putting our real names and even our real pictures next to our comments, unlike many who comment here. But the true issue here is not bickering between those making comments, it is the library and what is happening because of the actions of certain board members who are still a Political Action Committee (PAC) under the name BPAC(Berg, Peters, Albers and Calimag). For the residents of Morton Grove and any member of the entire public who is concerned about what is going on at the Morton Grove Public Library Board and their meetings, YOU have the right to attend this THURSDAY, July 14, 7pm the Library Board meeting at the Morton Grove Public Library.
Larry Levin July 11, 2011 at 11:17 PM
Actually, Mr. Poders, the agenda item for "Friends" is a report from the Library Board liaison. I cannot comment on the newsletter of March 2011 as I was not an officer of Friends at that time. Changes are being made with Friends. Will the changes undo problems that may have occured in the past? Of course not. We can't change the past. But we will make a concerted effort to move forward in an appropriate fashion so that we can continue the good work Friends has done. I'm a bit puzzled by your use of the word "Fraud." I believe that the members of Friends are pleased by the contributions they have been able to make to the Library and I'm certain there has been no deliberate attempt to deceive anyone.
Audrey H July 12, 2011 at 12:27 AM
Ms. Frisch, You are right, it is an open forum; a very public way of speaking to and about people. And for that reason, among many others, you need to be VERY careful with how you "just ask questions." You mentioned my name, you clearly stated the accusation that “maybe she has the information that we, the public, are looking for?" and “…maybe she has been talking with board members about these issues outside of the executive sessions, and which trustee might she have spoken with..." Statements full of inflammatory innuendo. Be careful with what you say and how you say it. Real, live people behind those "questions" and you are disparaging their reputation by making those comments. I feel very strongly that one's integrity is the basis of their character; that honesty and respect in every interaction with other people is extremely important. I would hate to think those qualities have become virtually extinct in public debate in Morton Grove. If you want to just ask a question, take responsibility for it, and don't try to throw the blame, accusations, or not so innocent suggestions towards anyone just to try to make your point. Regrettably, discussion boards are now nothing more than cesspools of negativity, gossip, and very bad behavior, and good people all too often are at the receiving end of those comments. Try respectful, honest discourse, and you will have no need to backpedal in the future.
Eric M Poders July 12, 2011 at 09:33 PM
The agenda for the Morton Grove Public Library's Board of Trustees is up for this Thursday, July 14, 2011: www.webrary.org/inside/board/agenda/Agenda_July_14_2011.pdf
Eric M Poders July 15, 2011 at 04:29 AM
Morton Grove Public Library's Board of Trustees audio from Thursday, July 14, 2011: www.northshorevoice.org/mgplmeeting071411a.WMA www.northshorevoice.org/mgplmeeting071411b.WMA
Jennifer Alvarado July 15, 2011 at 03:12 PM
Interesting Eric thanks for the 411. As a village we have lost businesses to surrounding suburbs and now we 'lose' our library director....geesh. Skokie is calling my name to move back, 10 years as a MG resident and 29 as a Skokie resident, when I was at Niles North, the Morton Grovers always seemed more priviledged, a tighter community, had great places to shop and eat, can't we work together and get that back? I just read my parent's Skokie Review yesterday and about the fantastic Police station, I feel that our police station gets overlooked like the library, necessary improvements need to be made. It makes me irratated that it seems progress has slowed down. Anyway, the library is the center of every town, I'd like to have one that I am proud of.
Dan Goldberg July 23, 2011 at 02:55 AM
It seems quite unbelievable to me that these statements were made by people who were elected to make the library better for the residents and wanted another term in office. But what is on the one recording (couldn't access the first one) is very sad, shocking and an embarrassment.
Lizzy T July 23, 2011 at 08:36 PM
I am appalled about what is being said at these meetings as heard on the recordings. Are there other meetings like these available? Something should be done and at the very least, those whose voices are heard should offer an apology to everyone in the community for their less than civil attitude towards others and especially to the people whose welfare they were supposed to be looking out for and apparently were not doing.
Ellie Davis July 24, 2011 at 01:51 AM
The truth will set us free. Thank God for tapes. Ellie Davis
Jennifer Alvarado July 24, 2011 at 03:20 AM
I've listened to about 8 minutes of one meeting, and I guess since I'm for a new library anyway, no matter who is on the board, I didn't hear anything that was embarrassing. Since I have children to tend to, I don't have time to rehash old meetings, but if you wouldn't mind by giving me a time on the recording when there was something shocking... I'm probably just missing it, I'd like to hear it. Anyhoo, I need to tend to more laundry from when the lovely MG sewers backed up in the middle of the night, flooding most of my basement....
Lizzy T July 25, 2011 at 12:29 AM
I hope everyone in Morton Grove takes your advice Ms. Davis to listen to all that's been said, not just a portion. Recordings from these two meetings are alarming and I wonder what may be heard from other meetings? Also, I am asking a favor for those of us in Morton Grove on Patch. To those of you who post here from other communities, while I appreciate that you are passionate about your topics, please remember each community here has their own concerns. Thanks for respecting our town's issues and not overpowering our local postings.
Peggy Leib July 27, 2011 at 05:27 AM
I took the time to listen to this recording that some of us Grovers are speaking of, I was not upset in any way shape or form. It was comforting to hear a group of eloquent, kind hearted, practical, educated people have a civil conversation about the progress of our library and our village. I hope that one day our current library board can put aside their control issues and work for our community. This is not a contest to see who made mistakes in the past, this is our library and people voted for a board of trustees to run it.
Lizzy T July 27, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Thank you Peggy for listenting to the recording, I hope you listened to both of them and truly heard what was said with objective ears. Perhaps if you listened again you would be upset. Perhaps you know them personally by the manner you describe them? These were people chosen by residents to represent our best interests. But know that even good people can do improper things. They may be eloquent and educated, but saying they wanted public opinion but then made secret plans to push their policies was not right. Stating a plan to make library patrons uncomfortable so they would call for a new building was not kind-hearted. You are right that this is not a contest, it is about exposing what was wrong in past and doing what is right in the future. This is the lesson we should take away from this, there are rules and they should be followed, especially by those elected to office.
Pat Craig July 27, 2011 at 11:12 PM
From the tape of November 11, 2010: {time 31:16.181} (voice of trustee Miller) "...I agree, I think it's important that people feel pain..." {time 31:18.777} (dialogue between trustees Miller and Fahey) "...they need to feel uncomfortable...yeah... they need to be miserable...take the St. Martha's parking away... forget about paying for (unintelligible)...and I think we should give the teens half...{time 31:31.210} (many voices talking over each other agreeing and laughing about ways to make the library patrons uncomfortable) {time 31:39.135} (mostly trustee Fahey and trustee Miller Miller) "...you are going to have people screaming for a new library... ya gotta have 'em feel pain {time 31:45.135}(voice of trustee Miller) ".. you know, you're laughing, but I tutored at Skokie and the teens come to use the computers right outside the four tutor rooms that they have and I can't tell you how many times Polly threw the (garbled) kids out because they were so loud nobody could study... so maybe that's what we need to start doing... I mean really... { time 32:08.750} (voice of Benjamin Shapiro) "...we've already had complaints about noise already..." {time 32:09.884} (voice of trustee Miller) "...well, let's put them right in the front window... I'm serious...{time 32:17.684} Kind hearted? Civil? "Let 'em eat cake" is more like it. You were flim-flammed and snookered folks. Listen to the tapes and remember that the end doesn't justify the means!
sherwin dubren July 28, 2011 at 01:08 AM
Personally, I like Ben Shapiro, but I do not agree with his image of building a new library in Morton Grove. His sights have been on getting a new library building from the beginning of his stewardship, so it is no surprise that it came to loggerheads with the current makeup of the library board. I voted for the BPAC people mainly because they had the same thoughts as myself, that taxpayers can ill afford to build a new library building in Morton Grove. Even going beyond that, I think big library buildings in our surrounding suburbs are there mainly for bragging rights. I may be old fashioned, but in my mind, libraries are for informational and entertainment material, not places to keep our teenagers off the streets. I use the current library often and find it comfortable and servicable. I'm sure the next director will share these viewpoints, so I don't regret the loss of Ben. Aside from his visions of a new library, he was an apt administrator and we will miss his talents in this area.
Tony Kovacs July 28, 2011 at 03:35 AM
Elections have consequences! Anyone who thought BPAC would keep the former director was not paying attention. If we don't like the new direction-whatever that will be-there will be elections again. The whole thing would make a great paper for college pol. science majors (grass roots politics, tax revolt, future of library, etc.
Pat Craig July 29, 2011 at 12:25 AM
Tony not only do elections have consequences, but if you're elected, your actions have consequences also. Perhaps unintended sometimes, but consequences none-the-less

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