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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.

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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