Bellwood Public Library Director resigns

Amy Crump, executive director of the Bellwood Public Library at a bookstore in Maywood in 2019. Crump resigned on May 14. She claims the “unprofessional” and “unethical” behavior of three library administrators caused her decision to leave. | File

Monday May 20, 2024 || By Michael Romain || [email protected]

Tension within the Bellwood Public Library board recently reached a fever pitch when the library’s respected director resigned. Amy Crump issued her letter of resignation during a board meeting on May 14. Her last day is June 7.

In a May 15 interview, Crump said she left because of the “unprofessional” and “unethical” behavior of three library administrators: Reginald Stewart, Felicia Chase and Dorothy Clark-Smith.

Crump said the trustees “violated their own policies.” She also said administrators often “talk over everyone,” including the library’s attorney and board president during meetings.

Steward and Chase said they would file a statement on behalf of themselves and Clark-Smith, who could not be reached by phone for comment last week.

“At the previous board meeting, held on April 9, 2024, there was a discussion among board members regarding the possible implementation of an employee views/experience/involvement survey to be administered by an external third-party contractor,” the statement said .

“The purpose of this research was to gain valuable insights into the experiences and perspectives of our employees to promote a more supportive and effective work environment. The board was divided on this issue, which led to robust debate about the best ways to ensure that our library remains a vibrant and inclusive place for both staff and visitors.”

When reached on May 19, Library Board President Connie Riales disputed the trustees’ account and strongly defended Crump.

“Amy didn’t quit because of that investigation,” Riales said. “That just put the nail in the coffin. She didn’t stop for that. She stopped because of the many incidents that preceded it. She was accused of many things. Whatever she did, they (Stewart, Chase and Clark-Smith) found fault with it. There were a lot of things that built that up and they know that.

According to the minutes of the April 9 meeting, the board voted 4-2 to “approve the Administrative Committee to develop and implement an anonymous survey of staff on daily operations.”

Members Chase, Stewart, Clark-Smith and Maria Perez voted in favor of the motion, Riales and Mary Clements voted against and Michael Horton was absent. The minutes of the meeting show that Horton has attended only one board meeting in 12 months. The minutes note that the library’s attorney “recommended against the investigation.”

“The board may not manage any employees other than the director,” Riales said. “We have policies and bylaws that state that the library director runs the library and has the authority to hire and fire people – not the board.”

When reached on May 19, Perez said she voted in favor of the survey but only wanted to support a survey administered to the entire library staff and not focused solely on Crump.

Perez said rumors have circulated in recent months that some library employees were unhappy. She thought a professional investigation conducted by a third party could clarify the situation. The survey has still not been administered.

“Suddenly we had people who didn’t get along,” Perez said. “So how do we find out what’s going on unless we do an investigation without pointing fingers or escalating things? I’m still in favor of that, because something is going on and it’s affecting everyone. I want to know what it is.”

Perez said she was concerned because some board members, whom she did not name, indicated they wanted the survey to focus solely on Crump and wanted to create the survey themselves. Perez said she would not support an investigation targeting Crump, adding that it could land the library in the same legal trouble as before. Crump’s predecessor, Jacqueline Spratt, filed a lawsuit against the library in 2019, alleging unlawful retaliation. She resigned last year.

Crump said she was not opposed to a survey that could help her do her job better, before emphasizing that the survey was not the reason she resigned.

“As a library director with 20 years of experience, I welcome any tool that can help me improve my skills, including employee surveys that provide insights for management,” she said. “The unprofessional conduct of Trustees Chase, Smith and Stewart has developed over the past eight months and goes beyond any suggestion regarding an employee investigation.”

Riales said she believes the investigation was a pretext for the three trustees to push Crump out.

“They were trying to push her out, and she felt like every little thing she did or tried to say, whatever she did, they had a say,” Riales said.

In their joint statement, the three trustees said that “while the decision to conduct the study was not unanimously agreed upon, the discussions were marked by a shared commitment to the well-being of our staff and the continued success of the library. Disagreements among board members are a natural part of any democratic process and serve to improve our decision-making by bringing different points of view to the table.”

Crump was hired as executive director in 2018. At the time, Clark-Smith was chairman of the board. According to previous Village Free Press reporting, Clark-Smith said Crump was chosen from a field of six finalists and was the consensus choice among all board members.

“She was very efficient at writing budgets and she knows how to write a strategic plan, which is what the library needs,” Clark-Smith said at the time. “She is also community-oriented and believes in the library’s partnership with the schools.”

During her tenure, Crump oversaw the library’s $2.5 million capital campaign that resulted in major building renovations and an expansion of the library’s services, such as hiring a full-time social worker.

She also founded Law Administrators West (LAW), an association designed to increase collaboration among Proviso Township library administrators, and served as vice president of the Bellwood Chamber of Commerce.

“Everyone thinks highly of her,” Riales said of Crump. “They respect her. She has done a lot compared to her predecessors.”

“She did a fantastic job while she was here,” Perez said. “The person who comes after her has some big shoes to fill. She has done a lot for the community.”

On May 15, Crump said that LAW would continue after she left, and that initiatives such as a campaign for National Library Sign-up Month in September would continue as planned.

“I really don’t want to leave,” Crump said. “I love the community here. The staff are some of the best I have worked with in twenty years. We have just started a new strategic plan. I was so excited to continue the work, but the atmosphere has become hostile and I can no longer do it.”

In their joint statement, Chase, Clark-Smith and Stewart thanked Crump for her “service and contributions to the library over the past five years. She is an integral part of our community and we wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”

Crump said the library board has a succession plan in place if she leaves and that another Bellwood Public Library administrator will likely serve as interim director while the board searches for Crump’s permanent successor.

“We are hopeful that the board will appoint an interim director and soon begin an extensive search for a new library director who will continue to uphold the values ​​and vision of our institution,” the three trustees said.

“This is sad because Amy was the best thing to happen to our library,” Riales said. “She has done a lot. She brought it from far away. She improved it and more was to come. I just hate to see her go like this.”

Riales and Perez said they feared the library could return to its sordid past before a new majority on the board took office in 2017. In the years before, the majority of the previous library board faced accusations of unethical behavior, and tensions within the board ran high. at some gatherings the police had to be called.

“We don’t want to go that way anymore,” Perez said.