Orland Park, IL. (ECWd) –
Two key employees of the Orland Park Public Library have resigned abruptly with little explanation, less than a month after spending they engaged in for a trip to San Francisco was publicly questioned. Both employees also feature prominently in a new book released last month that details years’ of wasteful spending at this troubled public library in the southwest Chicago suburbs.
Robin Wagner, the Library’s former Assistant Director, submitted a letter of resignation dated April 14th (for a final work day of June 1st). Jason Rock, the Library’s former Virtual Services Manager, appears to have notified Library Director Mary Weimar he was leaving on May 10th, with his resignation day being May 12th.
On May 9th, the Safe Libraries website ran an article questioning the wisdom of sending Wagner and Rock all the way out to San Francisco for a conference that cost taxpayers $4,000+ (not including the payroll expense of having two high-ranking staffers traveling for three days). At the time, Safe Libraries criticized the spending and asked if Library staff could have found similar training online as webinars or in the Chicago area…or if the Library could have saved money by sending one, instead of both, of these staffers to San Francisco on the public’s dime.
The book SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment by Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan has several chapters devoted to spending abuse at the Orland Park Public Library, including board members and other Library officials forcing taxpayers to pay for what essentially seem to be “free” vacations, as the Library representatives who take these lavish trips never seem to return to the Library with any proof they learned anything or any presentations they give to show that the conference spending was worthwhile in any way.
Since public tax dollars should only be spent in ways that benefit the public, it is valid to question whether employees need to travel on airplanes and stay in hotels and be fed with tax money if they are not returning to the public facility with learnings and presentations to other employees that make all that public spending benefit the public. Libraries routinely claim they need more money and want to raise tax levies, but if they are spending tax dollars on “free” trips for employees and not books and other library resources for the public, then people should question whether tax levy increases for public libraries are wise.
Wagner and Rock were both also criticized in SHUT UP! for their involvement in other controversial matters, including Wagner acting as FOIA compliance officer in matters that resulted in litigation that the Library lost and Rock making social media postings that caused concern about how he viewed his role as a manager at the Library.
Since Wagner and Rock took the $4,000+ trip to San Francisco in March 2016 and they both soon after decided to leave the Orland Park Public Library, the public should question whether spending so much money on employee conference travel is prudent. If Wagner and Rock were thinking of leaving the OPPL in May, it seems they should have in all fairness to the public canceled the March San Francisco trip or allowed other employees who planned on continuing to work at the OPPL beyond May to go in their places.
If there was already an argument that public money was not well spent on sending this pair to San Francisco for three days, then the fact that neither of them work at the OPPL any longer just two months after their expensive trip calls into question the wisdom of approving such lavish travel plans in the first place. Whatever they learned in San Francisco — if anything — was not only not passed on to any other employees but now neither of the two conference attendees are still on staff at the OPPL.
That’s more than $4,000 spent without any public benefit to show for it. Can the public afford to keep funding travel expenses like this for employees who appear to use such trips as last hurrahs before quitting their jobs?
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