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Editorial: Library board needs more transparency

Evanston’s Library Board Wednesday voted to hire outside legal counsel and a planning consultant without offering the public any specifics about what they will be paid for their work and, in the case of the consultant, hardly any information about the process that led to her hiring.

Evanston’s Library Board Wednesday voted to hire outside legal counsel and a planning consultant without offering the public any specifics about what they will be paid for their work and, in the case of the consultant, hardly any information about the process that led to her hiring.

In contrast to the practice at City Council, where items brought before the body for action are almost always accompanied by multi-page written explanations of what is proposed, the terms of any contract and the screening process used to select the recommended bidder, the Library Board provided no written documentation in its meeting packet this week for either of the hiring decisions.

Ancel Glink, the law firm the board voted to hire as library counsel, includes as one of its named partners the husband of library board member Gail Bush. 

Bush properly recused herself from voting to hire her husband’s firm, and it may well be that Ancel Glink is the best possible choice for the job.

But the loosey-goosey verbal description from Board President Chris Stewart of how the board’s executive committee selected three firms to consider and then narrowed the field to recommend Ancel Glink is below the level of documentation and rigor of public review that Evanstonians should expect from any body that intends to wield taxing power.

Among other things, the board failed to provide any indication to the public of what the financial terms of its representation agreement with Ancel Glink will be, other than to say that the firm will be paid by the hour and that all three firms proposed rates that "were about the same."

When it came to the planning consultant, Miram Pollack and Associates, the board provided no indication that it had conducted any competitive evaluation of potential candidates.

Residents at the meeting were instead treated to platitudes about how the candidate is "well respected, very familiar with north suburban libraries and lives in Northbrook."

No specifics about the work expected of Pollack or the compensation to be provided her were offered.

The board did later vote to take $34,000 from its endowment to pay for legal and planning services, but there was no indication of what time period that funding is expected to cover.

For a group of self-professed bibliophiles, who claim to love the written word, one would expect that documenting their work would come naturally. Failing to do so represents a deeply flawed way to conduct the public’s business.

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