The Wandering Lion
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They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so when I heard that it had been announced that Gerber/Hart Library had found a new home and the Windy City Times quoted GH President Karen Sendziak writing "the new space is being constructed..." I naturally assumed that there would be construction activity, especially since the library's lease apparently expires on April 30, 2012 and there's a lot to do in order to move.

I grabbed a camera and went over to the Clark Point Plaza, Gerber/Hart's new home, to record this historic transformation!

Dream on!

The Library That Isn't... at least not yet

The damage caused by amateur boards

It's no great secret that the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives is teetering on the brink of total collapse. Circumstantial evidence points strongly to a hijacking by current Board President Karen Sendziak despite the fact that the evidence gleaned from both government filings and public documents tend to indicate that she is well beyond the term limits set by the organization's own bylaws. Sendziak herself refuses to conduct her or the library's affairs in any sort of transparent manner adding even more fuel to an already volatile situation. There is strong evidence that the board membership has fallen well below that required by Gerber/Hart bylaws and below the three-person minimum stipulated by Illinois Statute.

In short, Sendziak runs Gerber/Hart as her own personal fiefdom with little or no regard for the multiple constituencies she is ethically and morally bound to serve.

How could this possibly happen? The short answer is: boards of directors comprised of well-meaning but untrained, inexperienced and nearly ignorant individuals who fail to exercise their primary responsibilities of care and loyalty to the organization. It's really that simple. Prior boards allowed this to happen. Only a portion of the blame can be laid at the feet of Sendziak who of course is certainly guilty of poor leadership and nearly total mismanagement. Someone, in this case ineffective boards, had to allow this to happen. The villains in this are many.

How much is too much?

Specifically, when should a board member's term of office come to an end at Gerber/Hart? As with many other things at Gerber/Hart the bylaws are more secret than a CIA dossier. The Windy City Times has written about having a 1996 and a 2000 copy of the Gerber/Hart bylaws. If one uses the 2000 bylaws as being the current bylaws in force we must conclude that Gerber/Hart has been operating with a sadly deficient board for many years.

Reconstructing the board

Since Gerber/Hart has remained silent on bylaws and board composition, I endeavored to reconstruct the likely board scenario based on publicly available documents. The National Center for Charitable Statistics has copies of Gerber/Hart's IRS Form 990 from 2002 through 2009 on line and available for download as a PDF. also has information about Gerber/Hart. (Requires free registration.) Based on the 990s that have been filed and by information for 2010 contained in Windy City Times articles, it is possible to reconstruct the Gerber/Hart board for the period 2002–2010. It is important to note that this reconstruction is approximate:

The reconstruction of Gerber/Hart's Board of Directors can be understood more easily as a Gantt chart. Download the Gerber/Hart Board service Gantt chart here.

How can we fix this?

The short answer is:

Can it be fixed?

This is a very difficult question to answer. Progress toward ultimate insolvency and failure may be too far along to avert. It will clearly take a transformational event to restore Gerber/Hart to the path of strength and vitality it deserves. In all probability, only a court of law can make this happen, but courts are typically reluctant to interfere in the affairs of private organizations that aren't in violation of any laws; it's not a violation of the law to be incompetent or stupid.

Stay tuned! We probably haven't heard the last of this and regardless of the outcome, the lessons will be instructive.

The photos

You probably came to see the photos of the new Gerber/Hart home as announced by "Board President" Karen Sendziak. A couple of comments are in order:

There's not much to the photos except a vacant building and a few signs in he windows. Click here to visit the gallery of Clark Point Plaza Photos.