Better Results Require Better Choices – Part II


Our previous post left off with our intrepid Library Board having lost one of its two finalist director candidates to the Palatine library – to which she was lured for the seemingly bargain price of $122,000 almost immediately after being designated a finalist here, notwithstanding a salary range for our Library’s directorship reportedly running from $101,558 to $142,181.

This post picks up the tale from that point.

Having been stood up by Ms. Dilger, the Board staged a public meet-and-greet session for sole finalist Aaron Skog on Monday evening, November 27, 2017, in the friendly confines of the Library’s lower-level meeting room. A number of residents attended, as is shown in the meeting minutes.

Skog put on his best dog-and-pony show, fielding questions from the audience with a surfeit of aplomb and a dearth of substance.

But a funny thing happed on the way to Skog’s offer.

After Board president Pat Lamb predictably moved to go into closed session to discuss Skog’s hiring, and Trustee Judy Rayborn predictably seconded it, Board treasurer Mike Reardon said that he would be voting against the closed session and suggested deferring any decision on Skog’s hiring for several days to give Board members a chance to think through the situation.

And then, in what can only be described as a pre-Christmas miracle, six of the eight assembled trustees – Karen Burkum, Steve Dobrilovic, Joe Egan, Garreth Kennedy, Josh Kiem and Mike Reardon (Char Foss-Eggemann MIA) – actually voted against the closed session.

Say whaaaaaaaaat?

We don’t recall Burkum, Dobrilovic or Kiem ever voting against a closed session, so the headline on that one has to read: “Trustees bite dog!”

Even such a mild slight, however, appears to have been was more than Skog could bear: Less than 24 hours later he withdrew his name – sending the Board and its hired-gun consultant, John Keister, back to square one.

At the Board’s December 19th meeting (and reportedly at Keister’s urging), the Board “surveyed” itself – an action of no legal validity, but something that Keister wanted – about what hiring activities should be conducted in secretive closed sessions rather than in sessions open to the public: (1) All initial interviews, “Closed,” 6 to 3; (2) the Board’s initial deliberations about those candidates for purposes of cutting down the field, “Closed,” 5 to 4; (3) the Board’s deliberations about the finalists following a public forum (like was held on November 27 for Skog), “Open,” 5 to 4; and all discussions of salary and “negotiating strategy,” “Closed,” 6 to 3.

Only Trustees Egan, Foss-Eggemann and Reardon voted against the secretive closed sessions on all four issues. Conversely, Trustees Burkum, Dobrilovic, Kiem and Rayborn voted for all four closed sessions. Trustee Kennedy voted against closed sessions as to (2) and (3). And Trustee Lamb voted against closed sessions as to (3).

Although that “survey” is legally meaningless, Kiem touted the results as “an act of good faith” on which Keister can, and will, tell the candidates they can rely – even though none of these four results are necessarily in the best interest of the taxpayers. And expect to hear that “good faith” argument loudly raised by Kiem and others when the actual closed-session votes come up for each of those steps of the hiring process.

Yes, the Board will have to emerge from those closed-session discussions to actually vote in open session. But that’s the absolute barest minimum of transparency that they can legally get away with under the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”), so hold your applause.

Frankly, without that IOMA requirement, we’d bet a tidy sum that at least 5 members of the closed-session majority (the possible exception being Kennedy) would gladly hold the actual votes themselves in closed session – before sending wafts of white smoke out of the Library’s chimney to signal the clueless taxpayers that we have a new Library director.

“Habemus directorem!”

Shortly before the Board’s December 19 meeting, this blog’s editor sent an e-mail to all the Board members urging them to reject closed sessions for these vital actions. Having read the meeting minutes of the Board’s December 11, 2017 personnel committee meeting, however, this editor knew the outcome was already foreordained – Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability (“H.I.T.A.”) be damned, just like they are almost everywhere else in Illinois government. Which, not surprisingly, explains in no small part why Illinois is the banana republic of the United States.

With only three Trustees committed to H.I.T.A. and another three apparently thinking it’s “Bulls-H.I.T.A” – according to Park Ridge Park Board member and situational-socialist Cindy Grau – there’s no reason to expect H.I.T.A.-inspired majorities from this Library Board, notwithstanding that one aberrational “Trustees bite dog!” vote on November 27.

Just like there’s no reason to expect H.I.T.A.-inspired majorities on many/most Illinois governmental bodies, starting with the toadies who roam the halls of our state capital constantly hoping for the slightest glimmer of recognition by their anti-H.I.T.A. lord and master, The Speaker, Darth Madigan.

So our Library Board is back at square one, still under the thumb of consultant Keister – who may have a keister-full of undisclosed conflicts of interest every bit as problematic as the one he had with Park Ridge and Palatine over candidate Dilger. Whether he discloses them or not remains to be seen.

Depending, of course, on whether the Library Board chooses to hide from the taxpayers in yet another sightless, soundless closed session.

To read or post comments, click on title.

12 comments so far

It sounds like this is Kiester’s show and the majority of the library board is just along for the ride because they are desperate to hire one of his director candidates.

I especially like the idea of public negotiations with the finalists, which should also be done with union negotiations.

You chased Jan into retirement and now you’re trying to interfere in the hiring of her replacement. Why can’t you just go away?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jan’s retirement was her decision after a majority of the then-Board – that means at least 5 trustees – determined that her continued service in that position was not in the best interests of the community.

As for the process of finding her replacement, we wrote nothing about it until the Kiester fiasco resulted in both finalists bailing, at least one of them involving what appears to be a conflict of interest by Kiester in recommending Ms. Dilger to both Park Ridge and Palatine without disclosing to our Library Board that he was doing so.

And if this editor went away and stopped writing this blog, where else could you so regularly provide your local government-as-usual comments anonymously?

I totally agree with Anonymous on 12.26.17 10:27 pm . All negotiations with any union and with the top employee of every local gov’t body should be in open sessions with the cameras rolling and the press writing. That’s the only way the average citizen can see whether his elected or appointed officials are doing their jobs and not rolling over for the unions or individual employees.

Kudos for Trustees Egan, Foss-Eggemann and Reardon!

Anybody can say they believe in H.I.T.A. and that they look out for the taxpayers, but it looks like only those three walk the talk. Shame on Trustees Burkum, Dobrilovic, Kiem, Lamb and Rayborn for all their closed session votes, while I’m treating Kennedy as a push for now.

How do we keep on electing and appointing public officials who want to hide themselves and what they are doing from the taxpayers?

EDITOR’S NOTE: How? May we suggest that too many public officials:

1. want the name recognition, prestige and/or business networking benefits without doing the required work?

2. mean well but lack fully-formed philosophies of government and, therefore, go along to get along?

3. think it’s just an adult version of student council for all the formerly cool kids?

4. are “plants” of some special interest or another?

5. delight in spending Other People’s Money (“OPM”)?

IOMA is a great law that is regularly abused by officials who don’t want the public to know anything. Knowledge is power, but ignorance is not bliss.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s perversely humorous is how many people are blissfully ignorant of government incompetence or corruption until their particular ox is gored – at which point they become one-trick pony “activists” demanding whatever spending of public funds is necessary to feed their “pony.”

I don’t understand the closed sessions, especially the deliberations about the offer. Once they have the public forum and deliberate publicly on whether or not to make an offer, they should also deliberate then and there as to what the offer is going to be – while the candidate is sitting there listening. Once they decide what the offer is (WITHOUT ASKING THE CANDIDATE WHETHER OR NOT THE OFFER IS “ACCEPTABLE”) they should make it to the candidate with the question: “Do you accept?” At that point the candidate can say yes, no, or present a counter-offer, all right there before God and the public.

What’s wrong with that?

EDITOR’S NOTE: It works for us, but we’re sure some “Nervous Nellies” on the Board – most likely fueled by Keister – will reject it as putting the candidate on the spot. And those same (or other) “Nervous Nellies” will raise the “negotiating strategy” issue, even though there really isn’t any “strategy” because either the candidate takes the offer or doesn’t, or counters. And if he/she counters, the Board can sit there in open session and debate whether the counter is reasonable or whether they should re-counter at a lower price – “right there before God and the public.”

But, of course, doing all that out in the open might reveal the characters of both the candidate and the Board members. And that probably scares the heck out of the former (and Keister) AND certainly does to several of the latter.

I have a novel idea, inspired by your previous post about how the Library has run smoothly under the two temporary directors. Keep running it with the two temporary directors until one of them feels comfortable enough to undertake the whole job herself.

Meanwhile any interested staffers can start grooming themselves for the position, whatever that entails (And what was the previous director doing about succession planning, other than nothing?) while the library board can continue to accept applications from interested candidates and, if one fits the bill, vet him/her.

The adage “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” seems apt here. The Library hasn’t skipped a beat since Ms. Van de Carr retired, so why bust one’s hump shopping for a pig in a poke when we already have quality people doing the job?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve heard that neither of the two current temps want the job, but to your point: We think it’s worth asking them if they would continue to share it – with a reasonable boost in pay, if necessary or desirable.

I’d venture to guess that the two temporary directors want nothing to do with the job because of the board that’s proven itself to be hostile toward staff so much in recent years. Much like many Trump appointees being hostile toward the agencies they serve, it makes for a very uneasy working relationship. The fact that they’re doing such a good job speaks to their professionalism and competence, something that’s been often only grudgingly acknowledged. The library and community is lucky they haven’t found other jobs.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And we’d venture a guess that, if the Board actually was “hostile toward staff so much in recent years,” there would have been many more resignations than there have been. But there haven’t been, just like there haven’t been significant resignations by City employees, Park District employees, or teachers and administrators.

That’s because ALL of these government jobs in Park Ridge are sweet deals in their own right, and also most likely by comparison to those in neighboring communities.

what is so hard about this? Make an offer in public, negotiate in public, hire in public. If you’ve got to hide what you’re doing, it’s probably wrong.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s the way we see it.

“[…]if the Board actually was “hostile toward staff so much in recent years,” there would have been many more resignations than there have been.”

The logic isn’t quite that simple, as there are multiple layers of management between the majority of staff and the board. You can enjoy your work, have a great relationship with your direct supervisor, and have no immediate plans for leaving a position despite the incompetence or active interference of upper management.

As an aside, though, from an accountability standpoint, wouldn’t directly elected boards of trustees for libraries, parks departments, and the like be preferable to appointed boards?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The bottom line is that employment by any unit of Park Ridge government – including the Park Ridge Library – is a great deal.

Yes, “directly elected boards of trustees” for the Park Ridge Library definitely would be preferable to appointed boards. So why don’t you start working on making that change?

“So why don’t you start working on making that change?”

Because we already do it that way where I live, what’s your excuse?

EDITOR’S NOTE: So you have no skin in our game and you’re just a troll. Are you the “Annoyed Librarian”?

No such luck, Bob, although I did first learn about PRL from her reporting of your ‘parasite’ comments. Stuck around ever since, mesmerized at the notion that someone with such high ideals of civic morality (and I say that sincerely) could so consistently and fundamentally misunderstand the mission, values, and professional standards of the organization he was tasked with leading.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The “professional standards” of librarians are not this editor’s concern – just as the “professional standards” of teachers, accountants, engineers, etc. are not his concern. How the Library serves its constituents – irrespective of any “professional standards” – is what matters to him.

This editor, however, adhered to the Library’s “Mission” and “Vision” (the Library doesn’t publish its “values”) – you can find them at – from the moment he first took his oath of office. Which is why he fought against the chronic deficit spending that impaired the Library’s ability to serve its constituents, the neglect of the building and systems, the mindless data collection without analysis, the staffing by numbers instead of performance, the lack of performance goals and outputs, and the various other mismanagement that had been institutionalized by the director and a succession of rubber-stamp boards prior to his appointment.

That mismanagement also included: (a) resisting the idea of a $4 million referendum to restore services curtailed by the Library’s past financial irresponsibility; and (b) closing down the Library completely on Sundays during the summer of 2014 as a political stunt to put funding pressure on the Mayor and City Council, as to which not one Library employee or administrator objected.

Fortunately, a change in the Board members in July 2014 created a majority – including this editor – that reopened the Library mid-summer. That same majority, along with a one new appointee in 2015, went on to demand better management practices (including charging non-resident “parasites” for computer use and program attendance) and to move forward with the first significant renovation of the Library in decades.

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