The stark disparity in the city's treatment of police chief Kenny Winslow and library director Rochelle Hartman leads to several troubling questions ("Mayor fires director of Lincoln Library," Jan. 27). Winslow sought a chief position in Bloomington after he was given a raise last year of over $7,000 to stay in Springfield after he was offered a deputy chief job in Franklin, Tennessee. In contrast, as happened with former economic development director Val Yazell in March 2021, Hartman was just summarily dismissed, without specific reason or any prior discussions about her performance. Mayor Jim Langfelder claimed Hartman "did not have plans to stay long-term, which she openly shared and was looking to move elsewhere."
Some might object to the obvious hypocrisy, but it's the sheer mendacity that astounds me. In fact, sexism does not begin to define the civic irresponsibility of firing somebody without any performance evaluation. That is simply not fair – especially when others are treated so differently.
A GOOD LEADER
Thank you for your recent article by Rochelle Hartman, former director of Springfield's Lincoln Library ("Lincoln Library is overdue," Feb. 3). Ms. Hartman's firing is a disappointment and loss for Springfield.
She articulated the services and programs of a strong public library. She pointed out the challenges facing public libraries today – working with the homeless, encouraging young adults to use the library, managing to deliver books during COVID and developing family and community programs, especially for those without access to the Internet.
Public libraries are a community anchor and asset. They are led by strong leaders with appropriate training who respond to community needs. Ms. Hartman has experience, knowledge and commitment. She rightly notes the challenges of being a librarian in our city's form of government – a library board with minimal authority – and being a city department, rather than a major civic community institution.
Kathryn M. Harris, retired director of library services
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Bridget L. Lamont, retired director, Illinois State Library
The cover story "More girls accuse detective's son of sexual abuse" is both interesting and astounding at the same time (Feb. 3).
It's interesting in that a person would have to ask, what if this was a 22-year-old African American male from Springfield in Taylorville waving a gun at 2:30 in the morning, drinking alcohol with underage, white teenage girls and in possession of more than the legal amount of marijuana in the car? Would that African American male be given the same opportunity to sleep off his drunken state in a residential neighborhood until the sun came up and he was able to drive home free as a bird?
It's astounding in that Taylorville police chief Dwayne Wheeler reviewed the entire body camera video with an Illinois Times reporter and two of his senior officers and said the officers handled the situation appropriately and he could see no evidence that Merreighn was given any preferential treatment. But he acknowledged that officers have discretion on how to handle minor offenses. I find this astounding in that Chief Wheeler uses professional courtesy as an excuse for his officers not doing their job.
These brave young girls spoke up to get this predator off the streets. It's taken way too long, but hopefully he goes away for a long time. Thank you for covering this story, Illinois Times.
Amy Rourke Jones