Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Library Director Sets Stellar Example of Professionalism and Provides FOIA Responses Immediately; Goofus and Gallant is Mary Weimar and Anne Murphy

At Bedford Park Public Library (link), Bedford Park, IL, director Anne Murphy set an absolutely stellar example of professionalism.  She then provided FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) responses within an hour!  And without running up legal bills!

It is a case example of excellent customer service and government efficiency that should be applied in every library and taught in every library school and library trustee training facility.  Instead, the American Library Association (ALA) teaches librarians to "deny, delete, defend" FOIA requests (link).

It is also an example of a library that complies with open government laws, including FOIA. That is the best "crisis management" possible, not attacking the whistleblowers.  As we all know, often the cover up is the problem, not the underlying event.

Anne Murphy deserves to win the I Love My Librarian Award (link).  "We want to hear how you think your librarian is improving the lives of the people in your school, campus or community."  I urge Bedford Park residents and library patrons to realize what a treasure they have and consider nominating her for that award.  "Nominations for the 2015 I Love My Librarian Award are open through September 28."

Kevin DuJan, my coauthor on SafeLibraries and a FOIA expert, compares Bedford Park Public Library's excellent response to that of the Orland Park Public Library (link), Orland Park, IL.  OPPL has covered up crimes including child p-rnography and continues to make child p-rnography available to patrons and cover it up for about two years now, choosing to follow ALA diktat instead of applicable law.  Cleverly, Mr. DuJan thinks of OPPL as Goofus and BPPL as Gallant.  Here are the details, reprinted with permission:

Something interesting happened today that is worth mentioning, because it created a situation very similar to those two-panel cartoons in Highlights for Children magazines called "Goofus & Gallant." Remember those?

They are a long-running series that teaches children Right from Wrong by way of posing the same set of circumstances to two young boys, with wicked "Goofus" always choosing to do the wrong thing and wise "Gallant" always choosing to do the right thing. For instance, if someone told both boys that they had done something wrong (broken a vase, forgotten to do their homework, decided not to call the police when child p-rnography had been accessed in the building), "Goofus" would lash out viciously, refuse to ever admit he was wrong, and then plot revenge against his critics while doing everything he could to frighten and intimidate them into silence.

Meanwhile, "Gallant" (the good person, who does what everyone should do in tough situations), responds to problems in a calm, civil manner, apologizes for what he did wrong, then takes steps to correct his behavior and ensure that the problem never happens again.

Perhaps the Orland Park Public Library (OPPL) doesn't have a subscription to Highlights for Children magazine. Maybe OPPL Director Mary Weimar has never heard of "Goofus & Gallant" or didn't learn Right from Wrong when she was growing up. It's possible she just has an irredeemably wicked heart…and it remains a mystery why the OPPL chose to engage in a deliberate "crisis management" attack strategy against critics starting way back in 2013 (when other public libraries confronted with similar sets of problems choose to behave in radically different ways that never involve the vile tactics that Weimar elected to employ from Day One).

— The "Gallant" Example (Bedford Park, IL) 

Today, we were working on a statewide Freedom of Information Act/Open Meetings Act research project that involves auditing the websites of all public libraries in our state to see if they all post FOIA and OMA information on their websites, as the law requires. We are making a tabulation of all libraries who comply fully with the law in contrast to libraries such as the OPPL who were noncompliant (and had to be taken to court to compel compliance).

We came across the Bedford Park Public Library, in Cook County, whose official website had no mention of FOIA procedures and no email address posted anywhere to contact the library (this is a violation of the FOIA statute). So, we called them to ask for the FOIA Officer's email or the Director's email so we could send them our FOIA request for various policies, invoices, and legal billings we needed.

An incredibly rude staffer answered the phone who refused to give us the name of the Director or Assistant Director or their emails, claiming that was private information to which we were not entitled. She demanded to know why we wanted to submit a FOIA request and refused to tell the public the names and email addresses of these public employees running this library. The staffer became belligerent and nasty and eventually slammed the phone down on us.

We called right back and a second (different) employee answered this time, who was much nicer than the first, but who also claimed that the name and emails of the Director and Assistant Director were confidential and not public information (which is both wrong and crazy). She did, however, agree to give us the email of some woman who worked in the library, but she wouldn't tell us what position the woman worked in. It was not even a government email address she gave us, but a "YMail" address (which is an email provider that we had never heard of). We were, however, able to submit our FOIA request to Bedford Park via that YMail address…but the FOIA statute does not allow a public body to make it so difficult to find someone to email with a FOIA request.

A few hours later, Library Director Anne Murphy called us back to apologize for the bizarre behavior of her two staffers. She took full and immediate ownership of the problem and said she was mortified that this happened. Of course, she knew it was absurd for the library employees to claim that the names and email addresses of the Director and Assistant Director were "confidential" and "personal information" that was not to be made public. Murphy stated plainly that of course the public has the right to know the names of a Library Director and Assistant Director and their email addresses and that the public should never be told that this is "personal information." She also said that she would personally remedy the problems on the website and see to it that all FOIA information required by law is added to the Bedford Park Library webpages so that no member of the public ever again has to be inconvenienced and treated badly when trying to submit a FOIA request to this public body.

On top of that, she personally answered the FOIA request we submitted to her today in about an hour's time. That is the fastest turnaround we've ever had for a FOIA in the two years that we have been working on this public libraries project. Murphy sent us all the documents we asked for in electronic format by email and then followed-up to make sure we had everything we wanted and were satisfied. It was fantastic customer service. It is exactly how a public employee should behave in an ideal customer service situation.

And Murphy was a pleasure to speak with and seems like a very nice person! She was kind, apologetic, civil, responsive, and accommodating. She is like "Gallant" in those Highlights cartoons: she did the right thing, solved the problem, and is exactly the sort of public employee we need more of in Illinois. She even went a step further and said she would be addressing the problems we talked with her about at the Bedford Park Board Meeting tonight, where she will address our concerns with the Trustees.  She wanted them to know about the FOIA problems and the rudeness of the staffers today and get them involved in making sure none of this ever happens again and the website is fixed as soon as possible. This is how a public library director should behave.

Anne Murphy at Bedford Park Public Library is the kind sort of poised and polished professional we expect when we hear the word "library director." She is the polar opposite of Mary Weimar at Orland Park Public Library and how Weimar chooses to behave.

 The "Goofus" Example (Orland Park, IL) 

Contrast the above experience we had with Bedford Park Public Library today with everything that's happened since we first went to Mary Weimar with a complaint on 10/05/13, just as we did with a complaint we took to Anne Murphy today (08/10/15).

Similar to Bedford Park, we went to Mary Weimar with a complaint about an employee's rudeness as well as observations we made that the OPPL was violating various state laws by allowing criminal activity to occur in the library (sexual arousal in public, lewd behavior, etc.).

Instead of calling us to talk about the problems we experienced at the OPPL (the way that Anne Murphy did today), Weimar instead went to E-Kenneth Friker at Klein Thorpe Jenkins (the OPPL's attorneys) and Chief Timothy McCarthy of the Orland Park Police and she asked them to find a way to harass Megan Fox over a video that Weimar didn't like on Fox's YouTube channel. The goal was to scare Fox away so that Weimar never had to address her complaint or explain why an OPPL staffer was rude to Fox on 10/04/13 or why other staffers told Fox that the OPPL allowed men to sexually arouse themselves at computers all day in the library. The video that Weimar/Friker/McCarthy tried to harass Fox about was from several years ago and was of Fox singing at a Tea Party rally. Because Fox is a Tea Party member politically, Weimar seemed to think she should be harassed and frightened away.

Weimar/Friker/McCarthy colluded together over several days and kicked off what became a years-long pattern of using the police as weapons against Fox and other critics of the OPPL. The OPPL, the Village of Orland Park, and Klein Thorpe Jenkins all tried one trick or scheme after another to destroy Fox and other OPPL critics and silence them for good so that the OPPL and the Village would never have to admit that the library had a history of allowing dangers to children to fester in that building, with staff looking the other way on Weimar's watch.

Mary Weimar, to this day, has never addressed any complaints made to her about behavior of staff or illegal activity in the OPPL. At Board Meetings, she sits there silently, gnashing her teeth and staring at the floor, never explaining herself or the destructive choices she's made.

Weimar chose to ignore FOIA requests made to her and pretended she did not receive them. When caught in that lie, Weimar then went through scheme after scheme to hide documents, refuse production, fabricate documents, or otherwise obstruct the public's ability to see what had been going on at the OPPL for all these years. It got so bad that Weimar had to be removed as a FOIA compliance officer in 2014.

Weimar and the OPPL Board went into "crisis management" attack mode and took advice from the American Library Association and the Illinois Library Association, both of which encouraged them to refuse to answer questions or to provide any explanation or apology for bad things that had happened in the OPPL. Weimar approved payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight FOIA production and compliance with the Open Meetings Act. Coupled with the settlement that the OPPL's insurer had to shell out to compensate the public for years' worth of FOIA and OMA violations, the OPPL has easily squandered over $500,000 at this point on futile legal battles against decency and transparency.

Weimar looked the other way and allowed OPPL staffers to make vile slurs against the library's critics and to lie to the news media as part of the strategy to scare the critics away. The OPPL aggressively violated the FOIA statute to the point where two lawsuits had to be filed against this library in chancery court just to compel compliance. At Board Meetings, Weimar presided over a set of illegal policies that unlawfully restricted public comment and censored the freedom of speech and abridged the right to petition our government. All of those illegal restrictions were finally removed in December 2014 because of the two lawsuits filed against the OPPL for these violations.

To this day, Mary Weimar refuses to admit that she was wrong about any of this and that her staff and board behaved poorly. Despite a mountain of evidence, letters of opinion from the Attorney General, and lawsuits the OPPL was forced to settle, she still refuses to admit that a hostile "crisis management" attack strategy is the wrong choice to make when approached by the public with complaints and concerns.

Anne Murphy received a complaint and a FOIA request on 08/10/15 and within several hours she had resolved both the complaint and fulfilled the FOIA request with a hospitable and friendly "customer service approach." All in one day. Without any lawyers, lawsuits, police, lobbying groups, insurance companies, or five-figure settlements being involved.

Mary Weimar received a complaint and a FOIA request on 10/05/13 and two years later the caustic mess she caused with her "crisis management strategy" is still racking up legal fees and being litigated in one court or another, with many matters still unresolved and still awaiting apologies from Weimar and others at the OPPL who were involved in the scheme to trample on the public's protected First Amendment Right to Petition the government.


Mary Weimar is like "Goofus" in the Highlights for Children magazines. She is obstinate, caustic, hostile, duplicitous, and operates from a place of contempt for the public. Even worse, she has people like E-Kenneth Friker of the KTJ firm and Chief Tim McCarthy of the Orland Park Police operating from similar places of contempt for the public, creating a perfect storm where the OPPL and the Village of Orland Park made the wrong decision at every step of the way over the last two years. For some reason, it is in their nature to lash out at the public, try to beat the public into submission, and violate the public's civil rights (possibly because that wicked law firm tells them that they can get away with it).

Contrast that with Anne Murphy and her sane and professional "customer service" approach to the public, which is what public libraries (and all government institutions) need in Illinois.

Mary Weimar and her deranged "crisis management" attack strategy to silence critics and chill First Amendment rights is a case study in everything that is wrong with our state. We have too many Mary Weimars in Illinois. We need more Anne Murphys.

It's rare in adult life to find two people in the exact same job positions who are so clearly Night & Day contrasts of each other in such a real life version of "Goofus & Gallant." But now we have a shorthand of "Mary Weimar & Anne Murphy" to illustrate the Wrong and Right for library directors statewide.

URL of this page: safelibraries.blogspot.com/2015/08/Goofus-and-Gallant.html

On Twitter: @ALALibrary @IllLibraryAssoc @ILoveLibraries @MeganFoxWriter @OIF @OrlandPkLibrary @StoryTimeDigita @VillageOfBP @VillageOrlandPk

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments of a personal nature, trolling, and linkspam may be removed.