by: Diane Benjamin
The Bloomington Library has operated for many years without much City supervision. They are the only board that can raise taxes without the approval of the Council. Until recently, they also wanted an east-side branch.
That was before Tari Renner became Mayor. Renner replaced many people on all the City Boards and Commissions, including the Library Board. He was determined NOT to allow them to build an east-side branch. Renner is completely focused on downtown – the library has to stay there.
Back when Renner thought I was doing good things, he sent me this email:
On Tue, Sep 3, 2013 at 9:45 PM, Tari Renner <[email protected]> wrote:
I just got word that ‘my’ Library Board (joke of course) has a special committee meeting tomorrow (in the Library Conference Center which is not obviously open to the public by the way) at 4:30 to propose spending millions of
dollars via property taxes on their precious Eastside Branch. This meeting IS supposed to be open to ANYONE!
Anyway, I can’t attend because I’m stuck in another meeting but I know the ‘sparks will fly’ because one of the ‘new’ library members I just appointed is going to raise a stink over this ‘done deal’ project (by another unelected body). I don’t know if you know anyone who can attend to report back to us but, if so, I’d really like to find out what’s going on!! The Chair of the Library Board was asked by Councilwoman Sonja Reece tonight about saving money by just improving the existing library as opposed to building an entire new Eastside branch and he said to her: “We buried that years ago”. Sonja said: “Well there is a new mayor and council.” He said something such as: “Those are minor details.” Well, I’m damn sure going to be more than a ‘minor detail’ I assure you.
I believe he sent the same information to the Pantagraph and WJBC because both sent reporters to the meeting. I also had someone attend.
The bottom line is this:
- The meeting was not posted publicly 48 hours in advance as required by law
- The meeting was held in a locked room, inaccessible without a guard letting people in
- No agenda was posted as required by law, and no agenda was available at the meeting
- Tari had an intern search the City website for an announcement of this meeting, it was not found.
I have emails to support these claims. I filed an Open Meetings Act violation with Lisa Madigan’s Public Access office. Note, it was filed last September. (Link to original and follow-up story: http://blnnews.com/2013/09/16/states-attorney-demands-answers-from-the-library-board/ )
Here’s what happened:
- I sent an email to the Public Access Office with all the details and supporting documents.
- Public Access decided if the charges deserved investigation-they agreed with me.
- Public access sent my allegations to both the City and the Library requesting a response.
- When the Library responded, I have a chance to respond again
- Public Access issued a ruling
Here is the response the Library Director, Georgia Bouda sent to Public Access: Bouda Response
Her response contradicts everything I submitted to Public Access, except the location of the meeting. Since no one had ever watched the Library Board, law was never followed concerning meetings. Georgia STRETCHED the truth in an attempt to comply with the law. She even created an agenda after the fact. Since nothing was available AT the meeting, no other conclusion can be made.
Lisa Madigan’s Public Access Office doesn’t like making decisions to hold government employees accountable. The Library Board meetings are no longer held in a locked room. Public Access couldn’t decide who was lying, and now all is fine, so they issued this determination letter: Public Access Ruling
Basically, Public Access punted, as usual.
Per the City Annual Account Report, Georgia Bouda was paid $105,196.08 as of April 30, 2013. Add another $30-40,000 for benefits. If Georgia was an employee at any non-government business, would she still be employed?
Mayor Renner did the right thing getting new people on the Library Board. Renner obviously wanted at least some control over the Board. Is he now going to hold Bouda accountable for falsifying documents and misleading the Attorney General? Since Bouda’s response was written last September, it’s not likely. Public Access didn’t hold her accountable, why would he?
Spin pays well, no accountability required. Nothing to see here citizens, move along.