An architectural rendering of a proposed Broadview Public Library addition || Broadview Public Library
Monday, March 7, 2016 || Originally Published: Cook County Chronicle || 3/2/16 || By Jean Lotus
The Broadview Public Library is suing the Village of Broadview to try to shake loose building permits for a remodel that got zoning approval and was supposed to break ground in 2013.
The lawsuit accuses village staff of engaging in unlawful shenanigans involving missing architectural plans, a false signature and an alleged conflict of interest for a library trustee who is also the village building commissioner.
A status hearing was held Feb. 26 on a request for declaratory judgment filed by the library in Cook County Chancery Court on Oct. 19, 2015. A court update was scheduled for March.
“The village has been using stall tactics since November,” said Library Trustee Board President Katrina Arnold. “We could have made a lot of money [if this was] a reality show. This has been the most draining experience.”
Arnold said the library is being punished because the board rebuffed a suggestion from Mayor Sherman Jones to move to a new location and build from scratch — with handpicked developers.
The expansion project began in November 2012, when Broadview residents voted by 81 percent to approve a $4.1 million referendum to build a 5,000-square-foot addition and remodel the building located at 2226 S. 16th Ave.
According to court documents, the project was on the library horizon “for years” and was designed as a “state-of-the-art” facility offering after-school activities for children and larger spaces for more community enrichment activities.
The addition would occupy part of an adjacent 4,100-square-foot parcel sold in 2000 by the village to the library for $42,500. The library and village crafted an intergovernmental agreement that the lot would eventually be used for expansion of the library.
But when library staff began to plan the expansion, Arnold said, Jones proposed an alternative plan.
“He wanted us to give him our building and build new on the vacant land where there had been a Baptist church at 17th and Sycamore,” Arnold said.
A public-private partnership was proposed with developers who wanted to build a commercial space with the library on the upper floors.
Arnold said the library board declined the offer and moved ahead by hiring an architect to design the plans for the new, more frugal addition. The Broadview Library District is a distinct entity, separate from the village.
Meanwhile, Village Building Commissioner David Upshaw ran for library trustee in 2013 — with the mayor’s help — and became president of the library board. Upshaw was the village official who was supposed to approve the library’s building permits, the library’s lawsuit said.
In March 2013, when the architect sent plans via Federal Express to the village, they vanished, according to the lawsuit. Upshaw said he never received the plans, and the signature on the FedEx proof-of-delivery document was “Jose Garcia.”
In court documents, an Oct. 2015 affidavit from another library board member said he observed Upshaw allegedly “sign for, receive and open a FedEx parcel” in the Broadview Building Department According to the statement, “[Upshaw] viewed the contents, excused himself and shortly returned without the parcel. Laughing, he [allegedly] stated that he signed for the article as ‘Garcia.’”
The lawsuit says a handwriting analysis showed there was a “high likelihood the ‘Jose Garcia’ signature was forged by Commissioner Upshaw.”
A police report was filed and the package turned up a few days later, “opened and taped up,” Arnold said.
The library’s lawsuit alleges Upshaw “engaged in illegal acts to accomplish an unlawful purpose” and that he wanted to “sabotage and delay the approval process for the library expansion.”
Upshaw declined to comment when reached by telephone.
Arnold’s husband, Wayne Arnold, served as the chair of the Broadview Zoning Board of Appeals in 2013. According to court documents, Upshaw requested that Arnold recuse himself from the December 2013 ZBA meeting where variances were requested by the library. Wayne Arnold refused, saying he had no financial conflict because he served the ZBA as a volunteer and his wife also served as a library trustee as a volunteer.
At the ZBA meeting, village lawyers argued the intergovernmental agreement was no longer valid because it didn’t address parking. But the ZBA approved the project unanimously.
However, even after approval from the ZBA, the village board has refused to issue permits for more than a year, the lawsuit said.
“We should have had the project off the ground in 2013,” Katrina Arnold said. “Construction costs have gone up; the taxpayers’ money is not going to stretch as far as we thought. We wanted to have a nice library in our village.”
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief from the court to mandate that the village issue the necessary permits. The suit also asks the court to circumvent Upshaw’s duties as building commissioner and replace him with an expert picked by the court.
“David Upshaw, he has a habit of trying to impede the process,” Katrina Arnold said. “With him being on our library board and with the village, that’s just a conflict of interest.”
Jones said he didn’t have any solutions for the conflict between the library and the village.
“I have no idea how it can be resolved,” he said.
He declined to talk about the lawsuit because it was pending litigation. VFP
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