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Carol Stream library worker sues, claims firing was political
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/25/2009 12:00 AM

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A 19-year Carol Stream library employee says she was wrongly fired after the April 2007 election for expressing her political beliefs.

Elaine A. Wierdak filed a federal discrimination lawsuit earlier this month alleging library management and three elected trustees retaliated against her in violation of her civil rights. The library officials did not comment on the claims.

Wierdak was fired April 23 as circulation desk clerk/coordinator despite having a clean disciplinary record and recently receiving a raise, the lawsuit said.

Her dismissal came about two weeks after the April 7 board election in which Wierdak publicly supported her longtime boyfriend, Dominick Jeffrey, with whom she lives, and his slate of independent candidates. The challengers criticized incumbents for past failed tax hike efforts to build a new library.

Moreover, the 55-year-old Carol Stream woman alleged she fell out of library director Ann Kennedy's favor during the earlier referendum drives by refusing to pass out campaign buttons, post yard signs, call potential voters, or otherwise show her support. She accused Kennedy of advising staff members opposed to the referendum drives to "keep that to yourself" when with the public.

"The First Amendment protects not only free speech, but also political participation and affiliation," said attorney Timothy A. Bridge, who is representing Wierdak. "The importance of the First Amendment in small communities is sometimes overlooked. She shouldn't lose her career for exercising that right."

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 14, names as defendants Kennedy; Mary P. Clemens, head of circulation; Fran Venegas, human resources administrator; and Trustees Jim Bailey, Robert E. Douglas and Barbara E. Siegman, the board president. The suit also names the village, but Bridge said it'll likely be dropped.

Douglas and Siegman said Monday they could not comment on the lawsuit, which they had not been officially served a copy of yet. Kennedy and a board attorney, W. Britton Isaly, did not return phone messages seeking comment.

Wierdak said she tried to appeal to the library board but was denied that opportunity. She is seeking to get her job back, as well as compensation for lost earnings and emotional distress.

She declined to comment Monday, but Jeffrey said the library management's criticism of his girlfriend coincides with when he began speaking out publicly. Only one member of Jeffrey's independent slate, Michael Wade, won election.