Appointments alter face of East Chicago Library Board

2011-03-10T00:00:00Z Appointments alter face of East Chicago Library BoardBy Steve Zabroski Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
March 10, 2011 12:00 am  • 

EAST CHICAGO | Recent appointments to the Library Board suggest major changes may be in store.

Mayor Anthony Copeland on Wednesday replaced board Vice President Ricardo Garcia with former Library Trustee Hector Cavasos.

On Tuesday, the School Board replaced Library Board President Chasity Gomez with veteran former library employee Sally Davis as one of three school trustee appointments.

Both Garcia and Gomez were supporters of embattled Library Director Manuel Montalvo.

Their absence leaves only three sure votes for Montalvo's policies left on the board: former city Utilities Director Al Velez, appointed by the Lake County Council; Realtor Raul Sanchez, appointed by the City Council last month; and Richard Novak, fired last year from his job as East Chicago Marina director by Copeland and named to the Library Board last month by Lake County commissioners.

When the seven-member board meets Wednesday, Velez will be the only trustee remaining who last month voted to extend Montalvo's employment contract through September 2013.

Library Board attorney Carmen Fernandez fought the removal of Garcia, alleging that a long-ago typographical error meant that his term should end Dec. 18, 2012, not March 6, 2011, as stated on his certificate of appointment.

The 2004 appointment of former Lake County Commissioner N. Patterson Span by former Mayor Robert Pastrick listed an incorrect date for the expiration of his term, Fernandez claimed, so the terms of his successors, former City Engineer Ernest Jones and Garcia, should be adjusted accordingly.

But using records dating back to the 1990s, Sylvia Watson, general counsel for the Indiana State Library, said there were no errors in the appointments of library trustees, and, even in the event of an irregularity, the authority rested with the mayor to either re-appoint Garcia, or name someone else.

Watson said it would be the same situation used by the City Council last month to replace their Library Board then-appointee Cavasos -- found after a year to be six days past the statutory deadline in filing his oath of office with the City Clerk -- with Sanchez.

Cavasos and former Library Board President Clifton Johnson have in the past been critical of Montalvo administration.

Johnson, a School Board member, was named to the Library Board by the School Board, as was Library Trustee Toni Smith in January.

The State Board of Accounts in December ordered Montalvo to repay the library $12,379 in travel, lodging, fuel and vehicle costs for trips to Indianapolis, New York City, Madison, Wis., and San Juan, Puerto Rico, which the state auditors claimed had no library business purpose.

Last month, state library officials notified the Library Board that its long-held benefit of library-paid insurance premiums for board members and their families was against state law.

Library board members and their families have received health, dental, vision and life insurance, all with premiums paid by the library, since 2000.

The State Board of Accounts audit released last month revealed that that health, vision and dental insurance cost the library $59,754 in 2008, $61,928 in 2009, and $50,819 as of Sept. 30, 2010, with premiums ranging from $8,458 for single coverage to $18,679 for family coverage.

During those years, additional costs of life insurance premiums for trustees ranged between $172 to $1,144 per board member, according to the audit.

Library Board members are expected to elect new officers, and address at least the insurance issue when they meet next week.

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