James T. Ingram

If your roof was leaking and your air conditioner was broken, would your first priority be to take a trip to New Orleans? Probably not, especially not on your dime.

Too bad three members of the East St. Louis Public Library Board of Trustees don’t seem to have similar priorities when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars.

First, the ESL library is physically in bad shape. Buckets are scattered throughout the library to catch rain water from a leaky roof whenever it rains. And, during this hot summer, the library has been randomly closed or operated with shortened hours due to a broken air conditioning unit.

Yet, in mid-June, board members Debra Tidwell, Bernice Vales and Toni Perrin ignored every responsible instinct and packed their bags for New Orleans to attend the American Library Association conference, at taxpayer’s expense.

Perhaps it was the popular hit movie “Girls Trip” that inspired them to get away from that hot and leaky library for a little R&R – I mean “professional development” (wink, wink).

I wonder if they learned anything about maintaining their local library or conscientious management of library resources during the conference – that is, if they even attended any sessions.

When local investigative TV reporter Elliot Davis of KTVI paid a visit to their board meeting, Debra Tidwell was evasive and had no explanation as to why she attended, as most of her colleagues scattered like roaches when the lights are suddenly turned on.

Board president Roslyn Cason explained that she did not attend because of the ongoing facility issues. She itemized those costs as being as much as $50,000 to repair the roof and another $150,000 to permanently repair the air conditioning unit, which has since been temporarily patched.

Cason is to be commended for displaying responsible judgment while her colleagues showed none. She is a rarity these days among bloodsuckers of the poor, who exploit the meager resources of the destitute, especially when they think that no one is looking.

This is all startling considering that, back in April, the former director of the ESL library, Marlon Bush, was indicted by the Department of Justice for wire fraud and embezzlement, which included taking excessive salary and using the library’s credit card to purchase Dallas Mavericks and Bootsy Collins concert tickets, as well as apparel, jewelry, firearm accessories, personal travel expenses, throwing knives, a machete and an ax. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Meanwhile, former ESL Township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton currently sits in a federal prison cell for exploiting funds intended to benefit the poor. Now his sister Debra Tidwell and her colleague’s travel, guilt-free, on the public dime, on funds which could have been better used to benefit their constituents.

It is this predatory political culture of entitlement, irresponsibility and exploitation that has plagued ESL for years and threatens to be her demise unless voters change the culture by reclaiming the process through attending meetings, challenging officials and voting. The question is: When are the taxpayers going to say enough is enough?

Email: jtingram_1960@yahoo.com; Twitter@JamesTIngram.

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