Bellwood Public Library

Regina Greene and Bellwood Public Library Board’s Outrageous Spending –

Bellwood, IL

In March, a Bellwood Public Library patron named Wanda Gipson confronted Regina Greene and the rest of the Bellwood Public Library Board on their shameful and outrageous spending. 

As reported the other day, the Bellwood Public Library Board is now under intense scrutiny and criticism for lavishly wasting taxpayer money on themselves while also seemingly being under the influence of a strange and mysterious man from Maywood, Illinois (who appears to be pulling Greene’s and other board members’ strings like a puppeteer to swing lucrative “consulting” jobs to people that the Mystery Man wants to receive these no-bid contracts). 

Gipson delivered a stinging and passionate rebuke of the Board’s wasteful spending (below), which included the following shocking information:

* Greene and other Bellwood Board Members selfishly squander library funds on trips for themselves when the library struggles to make even $200 off a Friends of the Library book sale. Money is badly needed for programs to enrich the community and to provide for the children of Bellwood, but Greene and other Board members waste money on hotel stays for themselves even when attending events in the Chicago area that they could drive back and forth to and save money. The Board seems to see the library as an ATM for taking mini vacations at any opportunity they can get away with. 

* The Bellwood community wants board members that are financially responsible and frugal, not spendthrifts out for their own good time. 

* For years, the Board has refused to update its by-laws despite multiple attempts and the hiring of expensive attorneys for that purpose. Where are the by-laws updates? The library’s insurance status is also in question, with the public wondering if the library’s insurance is up to date. The Bellwood Board members appear to not ever answer the public’s questions in these matters. 

* The Board seems to have dropped the ball on approving its own budget, according to Gipson. The basic competence of Board members was called into question with revelation after revelation of the Board members not doing what they are supposed to be doing. 

* The Mystery Man from Maywood who appears to pull the Board’s strings appears to be a man named Charles “Chuck” Baxter, who pushed into office something called “a new majority library board trustees.” Gipson questioned if this “new majority” was a Political Action Committee of some kind and wondered why Baxter, who doesn’t even live in Bellwood, was seemingly calling the shots with this “new majority.” It sure sounds like Baxter somehow got a bunch of loyalists ensconced on this board who subsequently do what he tells them to do. But who is Chuck Baxter and why does he hold such power over Regina Greene and the others in the “new majority”? Why is Chuck Baxter also allegedly pulling strings on the D-88 school board in Bellwood too? What’s this man’s end game and why is he allowed to be doing this? 

* According to the sum of Gipson’s figures, Bellwood Board Members budgeted close to $33,000 for conference travel for the year 2016. This is wildly excessive for a library the size of Bellwood. For comparison’s sake, other area libraries similar to Bellwood only spend between $5,000 and $9,000 for conference attendance and travel, less than one-sixth what the Bellwood Board is wasting. 

* Regina Greene and other Bellwood Board Members demand pre-paid checks for as much as $150.00 per day when they travel on their mini-vacations couched as “conferences.” No other area library board receives checks in advance of a trip like this. While not illegal, it is certainly unorthodox and unusual and a practice that would never be tolerated in the private sector. At other libraries, board members keep detailed receipts and then submit them for careful review and then reimbursement. Bellwood Board Members have been accused of taking the $150.00 per day “meal allowance” but not actually staying for the full duration of a conference (and never returning any unused money). Some Bellwood Board Members apparently also add extra days onto a conference trip, staying five days for a three day conference by arriving a day early and staying a day later and making the library pay for their airfare, hotel, and $150.00 per day in gluttonously excessive meal per diems. Why are the board members doing this? 

* A majority of Bellwood Board members have been going off on these extravagant conference trips when only one (or at most two) member(s) should be going. There is no public benefit to sending the majority of board members out of town on an all-expenses paid vacation. Regina Greene and the other Bellwood Board members do not appear to learn anything at the conferences and do not come back and give presentations about any learnings. The conferences appear to be a way for these people to just take “free” vacations together and make the taxpayers pay. The Illinois Local Library Act does not allow library board members to be compensated for serving on a library board. It can be argued that board members taking excessive trips that do not benefit the public may be considered a “prize” and “perk” for being on the board, which can be viewed as a form of compensation barred by the Act. At some point, lavish travel stops being a business expense and starts being compensation and reward for holding a board seat. 

Conferences put on by the American Library Association are particularly notorious wastes of public money, as the ALA is really not an organization with public libraries’ best interests or community needs in mind. At most, an ALA conference will have one or maybe two events for public library trustees; the rest of the conference is geared towards networking events for librarians with master’s degrees across the academic, private, corporate, legal, and other library fields. There is another organization called the Public Library Association (PLA) that is strictly focused on public libraries, but that organization doesn’t throw events in lavish or expensive cities like San Francisco, Orlando, New York City, and other favorite ALA spare-no-expense destinations. It can be argued that no public library should be sending anyone to ALA events and should instead be sending people to PLA events, as the public gets more benefit out of PLA events. 

If the public isn’t getting any benefit from sending Regina Greene and her cohorts on these mini-vacations disguised as conferences, then why are the Bellwood Public Library’s finances being drained to stuff their faces with $150.00 per day in pricy meals and put them up in fancy hotels? For comparison, $150.00 per week is the government’s benchmark for a family of four’s grocery spending and it’s about what an average American on food stamp assistance is allotted for the whole month. The Bellwood Public Library trustees are making off with $150.00 per day, supposedly for food…and they are demanding checks up front and do not produce receipts to prove they spent that money on food. It is hard to believe that anyone could truly spend $150.00 on food per day short of eating every meal in the fanciest restaurant they could find. 

Bellwood is a struggling community. Its residents depend on their library, especially in the summer, to give the children of Bellwood something positive and productive to do and a safe place where they can learn, play, and foster community. Every dollar spent feeding Regina Greene and sending her and Chuck Baxter’s “new majority” of board members off on trips that would give Robin Leach pause is a dollar that is not available to fund programs for the children of Bellwood. 

Everyone loves a “free” meal and a “free” vacation, but should the Bellwood Public Library Board be going to town like this all the time? 

 
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Regina-Greene

15 replies »

  1. We need to get together as a community and stop the madness. This is not fair that they are using tax payers dollars as their personal piggy banks.

  2. Chuck Baxter is seen in and out of Greene office at Bellwood School District , they need to be stop. Greene’s son also now has a job at Bellwood as a custodian, his name is Anthony Willis, information on hiring should be foia for the library and district 88. Chuck Baxter daughter Imoni Baxter is allowed to go to conferences attended by assistant principles I wonder if any other teachers were allowed to go.

    • I would like for justice to be served for the citizens especially the children of the District and Library. Yes we can talk all day but we need to get out attend meetings and vote these people out. Chuck Baxter, Marilyn Thurman, Regina Greene and Joe Burdi Must GO! This has been going on for YEARS and with the right agency investigating this can take them down. They must of forgotten that absolute power corrupts absolutely… It will be the start of corruption being bought down in this town….. it’s much deeper than we all see but they can GO now!

  3. I am a resident of Bellwood, and I know for a fact that the employees at the library did not receive an increase in salary and were under the assumption that the library could not afford increases. This truly is an ambomination and some “heads are going to roll” for this! Staff members actually went to the board and requested an increase and “Queen Green” never responded. Why are such arrogant and ignorant people making decisions for our library? Will we become another Maywood Library and be forced to cut hours and not provide information, materials and literary programs, computer usage to our community? Let’s have some accountability and get rid of these crooks.

  4. What about the will of the people? My home in Bellwood is losing value because of the poor school system and now the library board wasteful spending. High taxes for board members to travel and no receipts. This is abuse of power. I plan to attend the next board meeting and I am going to bring everyone I can with me. Let’s fight this thing together.

    • I am not giving advice but offering an observation and a thought. If you feel this is an abuse of power then in addition to coming to speak at the board meeting I suggest that you put pen to paper and detail your complaint with this board in letters to authorities. I cannot say who that would entail. What is being alleged here is beyond typical malfeasance or nonfeasance as what is happening seems to be orchestrated. That may (I stress MAY) rise to the level that the FBI would be interested in due to conspiracy of players involved. Well written carefully considered letters of complaint to the right authorities may bring needed change. But I cannot begin to say who that would be that could help.

  5. Let’s be clear the American Library Association (via its United for Libraries) has already said what the library did is perfectly legal:

    “There’s nothing illegal going on here, said Sally Reed, executive director for United for Libraries, a professional association for library trustees and ‘friends’ groups.”

    http://chronicleillinois.com/news/cook-county-news/bellwood-library-trustees-criticized-for-oversized-travel-expenses/

    But ALA is known to facilitate child p0rnography in public libraries and train libraries to destroy records of s3x crimes in libraries:

    http://tinyurl.com/ReadShutUp

    So most likely ALA is merely covering up for the library. I have contacted the library and Ms. Reed asking for informational interviews. But again, ALA provides training not to talk to media unless you know they will cast an ALA spin on things.

    • So far, neither ALA nor Bellwood Public Library has responded. No surprise. The best way to spread illegality is silently, the very opposite of openly as sunshine laws require.

      It is so good to hear Bellwood residents commenting here being willing to dig deeper into this illegality, and thank you to the muckrakers or whistleblowers who got the ball rolling.

      Since it is clear ALA supports the lawlessness at the library board, given the Chronicle story, perhaps the residents should also consider how else ALA affects local policy. For example, is the library allowing unfiltered Internet access despite Illinois state law because the library board follows American Library Association diktat?

  6. “It is the will of the board”, according to Regina Greene anything that “she” wishes to do or not do it is the boards right. While attending meetings, I have seen Regina Greene fight with Mrs. Smith, the only one who stands up to Greene. The other board members follow her like little puppy dogs. Greene acts as spokes person for the entire board. Her big fat mouth is the only thing I heard when I was last there. She seems to have a response to everyone and everything. I have seen with my own eyes her leaving the room during the meeting and speaking with an older man outside of the meeting. I have also seen her whispering to other board members during the meeting. Is this legal?

  7. Most businesses that use per diem to reimburse travel expense, reimburse at the Federal rate of $51 to $75 per day for 3 meals and incidental expenses. This is based upon travel to high cost or low cost cities. It is not uncommon to have pre paid per diem, but most done. What is unusual is to see such a high per diem. Per diems are meant to cut paperwork. By accepting a per diem, you can’t be reimbursed for more than the per diem rate. By the same token if you don’t spend the entire amount, its yours to keep. However by exceeding the federal per diem rate, you are creating taxable income. This is where you need to go on this. But, please make it honest criticism and leafe out the drama.

  8. I understand the concern about spending but I want to note that conference attendance is professional development that is built into a budget. While some may view travel to conferences as excessive it is actually a valid and widely accepted networking and development opportunity that is part and parcel to professional continuing education. This being said, it is against all professional ethics to not produce receipts for spending and to demand checks in advance of a trip. If this practice is truly happening, it must stop immediately as Illinois ethics codes do not provide for advance payments like this for conference attendance. Hearing that the trustees are doing this at Bellwood is a matter of deep concern. I am passing this article on to colleagues who should know about what is happening in hopes that someone will address these improprieties with them in a manner in which they will take seriously.

    • While I agree that the writers of this article don’t understand the purpose of attending professional conferences, the board members of the Bellwood Public Library not only spend more money but also attend more conferences than any members of the staff have. Actual librarians with degrees are passed over in favor of 4 board members attending a conference together. Any conferences that the librarians do attend have reports completed after the fact of the various panels attended while the board never reports on anything they have learned or what it has taught them about serving on a public library board. There is a lot that can be gained from a board member attending a conference, but I don’t think these board members are actually taking the time to learn anything other than how to steal money from a public library.

  9. When I worked for General Motors we were limited to $50 per day for meals and you had better have receipts or good-bye reimbursement. Alcohol was not covered, ever.

    We were issued corporate credit cards, with our name on them, to be used only for GM business expenses, per IRS rules.

    Unless cash was specifically needed, everything went on the card.

    Most conferences include a light breakfast, a daily lunch, and sometimes an awards dinner included in the fee. Trustees should not be given the entire per-diem in those instances.

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