Evanston Library Board members appeared nonplussed this evening about how a law firm was chosen to be paid to conduct a workshop on state library law for the board next month, a session announced by Board President Chris Stewart.

Library Board President Chris Stewart

Board Vice President Susan Newman said she didn’t know how the selection was made and didn’t recall any vote to select the Chicago firm of Ancel Glink  to conduct the workshop.

Library Director Mary Johns said she knew nothing about the decision and referred questions to Stewart who repeatedly refused to answer a reporter’s questions after the meeting and raced out of the community meeting room at the main library where the board meeting was held.

The Library Board voted several months ago to allocate up to $5,000 from its budget for legal representation in its dispute with the city over funding issues, but none of the board members present could recall when a decision to hire the firm had been made.

Board Member Dona Gerson asked Stewart, “Is the law firm working pro-bono or being paid by the hour? What’s the relationship with the law firm.”

Board Member Dona Gerson asks a question.

Stewart responded that there was a contract with the firm for an hourly rate.

Gerson said she recalled that the board several months ago had appropriated $5,000 for legal services, but added, “I don’t recall us selecting a firm.”

Paul Gottschalk, the library’s administrative services manager, said the selection wasn’t made by the library’s staff.

Board member Susan Stone said, “I’m sort of feeling the same way [as Gerson]. It would have been nice to come to an agreement before being informed that we’re having a paid attorney.”

Newman asked whether the contract would “use our $5,000” appropriated for legal services, and Stewart said, “No,” but provided no clarification about how the firm was to be paid.

The workshop session is scheduled to be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 13. Board members decided that while the public and city officials would be welcome to attend, anyone wishing to ask questions would have to submit them in writing.

The Ancel Glink firm is the author of a financial manual for libraries published by the Illinois Library Association.

The workshop session is designed to provide the board guidance as it pursues its goal of imposing its own tax on Evanston property owners free from any oversight by the City Council. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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3 Comments

  1. If there is a contract, it should be a public record

    Bill,

    If Stewart said that there is a contract with the firm, wouldn’t that contract be a public record?

    Any written communications (e.g. email) between the board and the firm for a contract for legal services would also be public records.

    Why wasn’t an request for proposals for legal services issued?

    This is further evidence that the Library Board–as an unelected and unaccountable body–has no business making budgetary and taxing decisions.

    Once again, the Council is the real culprit here.  They have not asserted themselves to stop this wreckless band of ideologues from running roughshot over the legitimate institutions of democratic accountability.

    Given what transpired at last night’s meeting, it seems to be a no-brainer that the Mayor could easily sack the board members who are not being transparent with the public.

    1. Contract?

      Hi Franklin,

      I’ve just filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents relating to the library board’s relationship with the law firm. We’ll see what it turns up.

      — Bill

  2. Stewart Step Down!

    This is not the city of Chicago nor the County of Cook. We don’t put up with shady politics or under the table deals here. Stewart, pack your things and GO. But leave any city property in your possession behind. No room for this garbage in Evanston!!

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