Public Watchdog.org

Better Results Require Better Choices

12.15.17

On June 12, 2017, then-Library Director Janet Van De Carr advised the Park Ridge Library Board that she would retire after 37 years with the Library, the last 17 as executive director.

That sent the Library Board on a search for Van De Carr’s replacement. Meanwhile, despite the trepidation of several Board members, the Board entrusted the Library’s management to two senior staffers to serve as acting directors on an interim basis.

And guess what? For the past six months the Library has continued to run smoothly.

Just like the Children’s Dept. continued to run smoothly after supervisor Kelly Durov noisily resigned in September 2015 to take a higher-paying position with another library – and then lambasted the Library Board for having the gall to demand transparency and accountability from then-director Van De Carr and the Library staff. That caused certain patrons and Library staffers to wail and gnash their teeth over what woes would befall that department and the children.

Those woes turned out to be…none. Bupkes. Zero. Zip. Nada.

But government bureaucracies being what they are, and thinking outside the box being anathema to bureaucrats, the Library Board embarked on a conventional search for a new full-time director. It hired an executive search firm that bills itself as specializing in library personnel: John Keister & Associates (“We Help Libraries Hire Exceptional Leaders”), a family business that seems to have cornered the Chicagoland market for this particular employment niche.

So the Library (a/k/a, the taxpayers) paid $16,000 to Keister to find and screen “qualified” candidates. It signed his Keister-friendly “Executive Search Proposal” – in lieu of a fair and balanced bi-lateral contract – that we can’t believe the Library’s attorneys (if they even were consulted) would have approved.

We understand that Keister attempted to un-nerve the Board with warnings of how the Park Ridge Library had acquired a toxic reputation among the librarian fraternity/sorority throughout the area, presumably because of the way its Board had begun: (a) challenging the director and staff on actual performance metrics and holding them accountable for their performance; (b) televising/videotaping meetings; (c) publishing its Board packets online so the taxpayers could see them in advance of meetings; (d) actually charging non-residents for premium Library usage like computers and program attendance (How terrible!); and (d) charging tutors and other for-profit businesses for using the Library as their taxpayer-funded office space (Heresy!).

Ironically, a few years ago Park Ridge’s then-mayor, Dave Schmidt, and the then-City Council reportedly acquired a “toxic” reputation after they sacked city manager Jim Hock in 2012 for with a no-confidence vote and a laundry list of performance fails. He was followed by Shawn Hamilton, who jumped ship one step ahead of another performance review that likely would have weighed, measured, and found him wanting.

But guess what?

The City turned to finance supt. Joe Gilmore. And, so far, Gilmore has proven himself a superior city manager to both of his two most immediate predecessors – and light years ahead of Tim Schuenke, the prince of darkness whose incompetence was exceeded only by his deceptiveness, both of which flaws were not only tolerated but even rewarded for more than a decade by mayors Ron Wietecha, Mike Marous and Howard Frimark, along with their complicit councils.

That was before Schmidt introduced H.I.T.A. to City government, a concept that even made some inroads at the Library over the past few years.

But transparency and accountability aren’t what a headhunter like Keister is about. His thing is generating fees while maintaining and gaining influence – the influence that comes from placing modestly-talented bureaucrats in secure, over-paid public jobs with Cadillac pensions, thereby creating a pool of once-and-future job seekers who not only become Keister’s captive “inventory” but are also beholden to him for their future job moves.

He reportedly insisted on controlling the hiring process if our toxic Library was to have any chance of landing a qualified director. And the Library Board bent to his will: It screened the four finalists in the secretive closed session Keister demanded before choosing the two finalists: Jeannie Dilger, the executive director of the LaGrange public library, and Aaron Skog, the executive director of a library consortium known as SWAN.

Board president Pat Lamb acknowledged Keister’s secretive preferences in a Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article on the subject (“After candidates withdraw, Park Ridge Library Board starts over on leadership search,” December 6), saying that Keister was “very concerned that candidates are not comfortable with some of the things that we do in open session versus what other libraries may do in open session.” That’s because most bureaucrats despise transparency and accountability.

Despite the Board’s accommodations to most of what Keister wanted, one of his two finalists – Jeannie Dilger, the executive director of the LaGrange library – dropped out almost immediately to accept a $122,000 offer from the Palatine library? (which serves 90,000 patrons).

Guess who was running the Palatine library’s director search?

Yep.

And guess who reportedly didn’t disclose to our Library Board that he was serving at least two masters?

Yep.

But that’s barely the half of this farce. We’ll share the other half in our next post.

To read or post comments, click on title.

9 comments so far

Sounds like a bigtime conflict of interest to me, compounded by the failure to disclose.

How much was the Park Ridge Library offering to pay? According to you this Dilger got $122,000 to run a library with 90,000 customers, but we only have less than 40,000 here in Park Ridge, so were we offering more or less?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have no idea: We can’t tell whether the Board has a dollar amount or salary range but just isn’t sharing, or whether it does not have either.

But FYI, Ms. Van De Carr’s most recent base salary was $130,000, total compensation was $165,500, and she got 29 vacation days and 4 administrative days.

Come on, Library Board. Don’t let some pay-to-play consultant dictate how you conduct transparent gov’t. Do it all in plain sight, or don’t do it at all.

PW, did you see the agenda for this Tuesday night’s Library Board meeting? They want to “deliberate candidate qualifications in Closed Session” and “discuss salary offer in Closed Session.”

After blowing it on two finalists that bailed on them, the board should be doing both of those things in open session so that there is a public record (video and minutes) of who was greedy, who was weak, and who was stupid.

PW, you have argued for open negotiations of employee contracts for years, and your arguments have been spot on. It looks like the new board is backsliding. Too bad.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We can think of nothing better than for the Library Board, in open session, to discuss how much it intends to offer a director candidate; and for any negotiation between the candidate and the Board to be conducted in open session, where the taxpayers can see and hear the Board’s stewardship of their money vis-à-vis the candidate’s demands.

Please. You live in a fantasy world, and have been spreading “fake news” long before Trump made it fashionable. You tout “transparency” and accountability” as if you or Schmidt invented them when it’s clear that they’re just code for demeaning public employees, who don’t fit your tea party agenda.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pretty tough talk for an anonymous wimp. But since we’re not afraid of wimps, we’re happy to publish tripe like yours.

As for “fake news,” we challenge you to find anything in our posts that we have published as fact (not opinion) that you can prove to be untrue.

“Transparency” and “Accountability” – along with “Honesty” and “Integrity” – have always been around. They just haven’t meant much to most politicians and bureaucrats, and meant little or nothing to most of our local officials and bureaucrats pre-Schmidt. But they’ve got longstanding, accepted definitions that have stood the test of time and can be looked up in the dictionary, so they don’t need to be “code” for anything

Finally, we have no “tea party agenda”: This editor has never attended a “tea party” function or gathering; this blog rarely, if ever, has advocated for lowering taxes (as distinguished from advocating against irresponsibly raising them); we’ve never written anything critical of Obamacare; and we have always thought that Sarah Palin is a few strings shy of a banjo.

So if that’s the best you’ve got, we can understand your desire for anonymity.

12.17.17 at 7:05 pm:

Are you saying that the library board should not advertise a salary or salary range but then negotiate a salary with the candidate AFTER they have chosen him/her and he/she knows he/she is their choice and has extra bargaining power?

And are you saying that this should be done in closed sessions where the public can’t see it?

If so, that’s really stupid.

Spot on!

“We understand that Keister attempted to un-nerve the Board with warnings of how the Park Ridge Library had acquired a toxic reputation among the librarian fraternity/sorority throughout the area…”

No need for false modesty, Bob. I’m sure the Trizna-led board’s well-intentioned but completely tone-deaf accountability/transparency/revenue-generating initiatives being singled out for ridicule in a national trade publication no less than four times ensured that the Park Ridge Library’s toxic reputation extended far, far beyond the area.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To what “national trade publication” do you refer: The Library Journal? Ouch!

Where was the ridicule from that fluff-and-stroke e-rag when our former librarian and a majority of her rubber-stamp library board closed down our Library on summer Sundays – usually the Library’s busiest day – so she could give raises to employees?

Oh, that’s right…raises for staff are more important than keeping the building open and serving the public. Typical bureaucratic mentality.

Anonymous on 12.22.17 3:01 pm:

I would prefer elected and appointed officials who are disliked by bureaucrats rather than liked by them, as the former are more likely to be looking out for the taxpayers (which ticks off the bureaucrats whose only concern is getting the most money for the least work and responsibility).



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