Bellwood Library Director To Resign

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: Jacqueline Spratt (pictured in pink dress), at a library board meeting last year. | File 

The executive director of the Bellwood Public Library has announced that she plans on resigning. During a phone interview on March 28, Jacqueline Spratt said that she verbally informed Dorothy Clark-Smith, the library board president, of her intentions today.

Spratt said that her resignation will be effective on April 6, adding that according to the library’s succession plan, the head of the adult services department will take her place in the interim.

“I haven’t given them an official letter and there are some people who are trying to get me to stay, but I think, overall, it doesn’t look good,” said Spratt, who has been executive director for nearly four years and has worked at the library for almost 25 years.

“I’ve been fighting with the board almost since I’ve been the director and I just don’t want to fight anymore,” Spratt said. “I just don’t want to fight anymore and I think that some people have hidden agendas that I’m not willing to go with.”

Spratt did not go into detail about board actions she disagrees with, but she did register some dissatisfaction with a recent board evaluation.

Spratt said that the evaluation seemed arbitrary and did not take into account her accomplishments while executive director.

“For example, they said I need to work on doing things in a timely manner and they couldn’t even show me one thing I had not done in a timely manner,” Spratt said. “They were making statements that they couldn’t prove.”

Spratt added that the board did not recognize some of her achievements at the helm of the library, such as the creation of a teen room and numerous technology upgrades, including the acquisition of 3-D printers.

Library board member Deborah Giles echoed Spratt’s concerns, adding that Clark-Smith, along with board members Connie Riales and Mary Clements, “didn’t have any solid proof” for some of the claims about Spratt in their board evaluation.

Jacqueline Spratt

Spratt, in her office at the Bellwood library, said that her resignation date is April 6. | YouTube 

“They railroaded [Spratt],” Giles said. “She saved that library. They’ve never given her the credit.”

Giles added that this most recent board evaluation was the first such evaluation since Spratt has been in place as executive director.

This is at least the second major confrontation between Spratt and the library board in less than a year. Last summer, the board voted to place Spratt on paid administrative leave pending an outside investigation.

The reasoning of that decision, however, was unclear and its validity was called into question since the meeting where the decision was made possibly violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act and two of the four library trustees may not have been legal members of the board.

Those board members attempted to file a temporary restraining order against Spratt, which would have kept her from going in to work. The order was upheld briefly before a judge struck it down on July 7, 2017.

In the months prior to that conflict, the library had been under scrutiny by community members and media outlets because of questionable contracts and other ethical concerns while Clements was board president.

A local election last April, however, paved the way for Giles, Clark-Smith and Riales — all of whom ran on the Bellwood Dream Team Party slate — to form a potential voting majority, which resulted in Clements’ ouster as board president.

Giles said that Spratt kept the library together during the tumultuous period before the April election, when residents were up in arms about possible legal and ethical violations, and after the elections, when the library board could not maintain a quorum for several months, holding up important actions like spending authorizations.

In September, the appointment of two new board members, Rev. Michael Horton, a former library board member, and Gloria Ward, seemed to signal the dawning of a new era of relative calm at the library.

To some extent, Giles said, significant progress has been made.

“We’ve done some wonderful things,” she said. “We’ve re-written our bylaws and some policies to counter corruption.”

But some ominous signs have appeared as well, such as the apparent crack in the Bellwood Dream Team Party coalition.

Differences of opinion over Spratt’s performance, among other issues, seems to have driven a significant wedge between Giles and her former running-mates, whom she said have since been siding with Clements lately.

Attempts to reach Clark-Smith and Riales by phone on Wednesday evening were unsuccessful. More as this story develops. VFP 

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