Unanswered questions around the Gerber/ Hart library's decision to move locations have resulted in the release of a community letter sent to Board President Karen Sendziak on Feb. 15.
The letter's authors, calling themselves "Friends of the Gerber/ Hart" have also released their names. A copy of the letter is provided below.
In addition, the library has filed its missing 2010 IRS 990 form and released it to Windy City Times, after the paper reported that the library failed to file the form amid questions surrounding its impending move. Sendziak submitted the form via mail to the newspaper.
WCT has previously reported that the Gerber/ Hart Library is moving for reasons that have not been made public and that Sendziak has yet to respond to questions about the organization's basic operations.
The 2010 filing shows an organization added to its net assets in 2010. As of 2010, the library had $248,779, up from 2009 when it reported assets totaling $235, 936. It also indicates that Sendziak worked an average of 30 hours per week without compensation.
Maura Possley, spokesperson at the Attorney General's office confirmed that the library has filed its 990, bringing it back into compliance in that regard. She said that the office has requested additional details, however and will make the document public online when such details are submitted by the library.
Four members are listed on the 2010 filing. They are Sendziak, Owen Keehnen, N. Elizabeth Reynolds and Sukie de la Croix. With the exception of Sendziak, all are believed to have since left the organization. Among them are two who issued the Feb. 15 letter to Sendziak.
The group previously informed WCT that it had issued the letter. However, most declined to immediately release their identities and the full contents of the letter were not provided. Sendziak responded to the letter in her own statement and issued a copy to WCT.
Windy City Times is continuing to investigate this story and will update as details become available.
Letter from Friends of the Gerber/ Hart:
February 15, 2012
We are writing as friends of the Gerber/Hart Library. We value it as a community institution and we have supported it in a variety of ways over the years. We have deep concerns about its future. The recent articles in Windy City Times have helped bring these concerns into focus, but have not caused these concerns.
We are very aware that you love Gerber/Hart and have devoted uncountable hours to it. Yet, the seven-plus years of your presidency have produced an increasingly difficult environment. The board has shrunk to almost no one except you. The space, once so pleasant and inviting, has taken on the look of a resale shop and storage room. Programming and exhibits have shrunk to almost nothing. The archives are impenetrable, and there is virtually no access to them except through you. You have made it impossible for others to take on leadership to help fulfill the mission of the organization. You have transformed a public institution that should be transparent and accountable into one that will not release its bylaws, will not list its board members, and has failed to file, despite multiple extensions, its most recent tax reporting form.
Of greatest concern, you seem to be unnecessarily forcing a move to new quarters at a time when you have little community support to carry out what will be a gargantuan task. Taken together, your autocratic leadership and decision-making are endangering a valuable and treasured community institution.
As friends of the Gerber/Hart Library, we ask two things:
1 ) That you immediately contact the owner/realtor and extend the lease on the current Granville space, thereby forestalling a need to move at the present time.
2 ) The organization's governance must be opened up to a new, more extensive board of directors and this must be done in a way that is transparent and easily accessible to the public.
Gerber/Hart's current difficulties can all be solved. But the way Gerber/Hart has been run for the last several years must end. It is making Gerber/Hart a shadow of what it could be and has created a public-relations nightmare for the organization.
Signed by ( in alphabetical order ) :
Sukie de la Croix
Sendziak's response as submitted on Feb. 20 to Windy City Times:
Thank you for bringing your concerns about Gerber/Hart to my attention in your letter of Feb. 15. I will address what you say is your "greatest concern" firstthat is Gerber/Hart's possible move, and I stress possible, because no final decision has been made, notwithstanding what you may have read in the Windy City Times.
The impending expiration of Gerber/Hart's lease for the space on Granville mandates that a prudent board of directors considers whether to stay or to move. There are many issues to take into account, among them finances, access, space, safety and the landlord's record with us. We have declined, as is right to do, to deliberate or to negotiate in the press. In this regard, we have proceeded no differently than the board of directors of Gerber/Hart proceeded back in 1998, when we moved to the Granville space from the space on Paulina. Then, as now, the board studied all the relevant factors over a long period of time and took the decision it thought best. We regard this as our fiduciary duty. No attempt was made then, nor can we permit any attempt to be made now, to stampede the Board into any decision by the press or any other party.
While the board is open to, and will consider, the opinions and wishes of all of the friends of Gerber/Hart, including members of the press, individuals such as yourselves, the alderman and community groups, the final decision will be the one the Board believes best serves the interest of Gerber/Hart and the community it serves.
Youwho elsewhere in your letter are critical of what you call my autocratic leadershipdemand, without knowing the issues involved or the status of the negotiations, that I "immediately" renew the lease on the Granville space, acting unilaterally, ignoring the board of directors and setting aside all the study and negotiation that has been done up to now. What sort of leadership would it be for me to do that? In what way would that fulfill my fiduciary duty to Gerber/Hart?
The balance of your letter is a critique of my leadership. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion. To the extent any specific points can be discerned in what you say, I would reply with the following:
Yes, a tax return was filed late and another contained a list of board members from the wrong year. These are trivial errors that any organization could make. The late tax return has now been filed and the erroneous one is being amended.
Yes, there are fewer board members, because in recent years it has been difficult to find qualified individuals who are willing to devote the time needed and are not burdened by conflict of interest. As for transparency, the application for board membership has been on our website for years. The board has three members, and their identity is a matter of public record, on file, as required, with the secretary of state. A board recruitment task force was recently formed to help recruit more members.
Yes, the space looks a little run-down. That is, in fact, one of the many issues the board is considering in connection with the possibility of a move.
As for programs, we have eight planned for March. As for exhibitions, we revitalized them last fall starting in October with an exhibition highlighting our AIDS posters; in November, we staged an exhibition commemorating the 30th anniversary of "Reeling," the gay and lesbian film festival; currently, we have an exhibition about Broadway musicals.
I would add, although you don't mention it, that thanks to my efforts Gerber/Hart's financial base has steadily improved, and today is sound.
Other points you make are histrionicthat Gerber/Hart is a "shadow" of its former self, that the archives are "impenetrable," that my style is "autocratic"and do not deserve a response.
I hope that all the friends of Gerber/Hart will support the board as it undertakes the serious and complex task of determining our new home.