Chicago PL Incensed over Political Joke

Article excerpt

A Chicago Public Library supervisor was suspended for one day in late December after making a joking comment about Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and unaccounted-for library funds.

Diane Richmond, who since 1985 has supervised the science and technology section in the Harold Washington Library Center (HWLC), told American Libraries that the incident occurred during a department heads' meeting on December 12. When Richmond asked for a clarification of how a significant portion of her section's 1995 book budget had been spent, she was told by HWLC director Emelie Shroder that no details were available.

Richmond said that when she protested that "people will think all kinds of things in the absence of other information," Shroder asked her just where she or others thought the money might have gone. Richmond responded that for all she knew, "it might have gone into Richie Daley's campaign fund."

A week later, Richmond was informed in a disciplinary hearing that she was being suspended for one day without pay.

According to the January 10 Chicago Sun-Times, Richmond said her comment was "a metaphor that I'm sure everyone there knew was offered in jest ... as a humorous, far-out example ... nothing that I or anyone else would take seriously."

Freedom of speech issue

Henry Bayer, Illinois executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), whose Local 1215 represents library employees, told the Sun-Times that "there are serious freedom of speech issues here ... that should not be encountered in a library, of all places, where freedom of expression is always such an important issue. …