At seventh, tie-breaker trustee will not take his seat on the Niles-Maine District Library Board Sept. 21 as scheduled due to a temporary restraining order.
The new trustee, Umair Qadeer, was appointed by Secretary of State Jesse White Friday and was set to be sworn in at Wednesday night’s meeting. Qadeer’s seating on the board would have broken a 3-3 deadlock that has plagued the board since August of last year, hindering decision-making about staff, spending, legal fees, repairing the roof and many other significant matters.
Board Treasurer Joe Makula’s decision to file for a restraining order that prevents Qadeer from joining the board comes just five days before the library is scheduled to have its budget hearing on the spending plan for the coming year. That budget hearing is scheduled for Sept. 26, and the restraining order remains in effect until Sept. 30. Illinois law requires the library to have a budget in place by Sept. 27.
After former board member Olivia Hanusiak resigned in August 2021, board members had not been able to agree on a replacement trustee for her for almost a year when state lawmakers passed a new law empowering Secretary of State Jesse White to appoint new members to library boards that had vacancies more than 90 days old.
White, acting in his capacity as state librarian, appointed Qadeer Sept. 16.
The decision on the restraining order came down Wednesday from Cook County Circuit Court Judge Alison Conlon, Secretary of State Spokesperson Dave Druker said.
“We’re reviewing the judge’s decision but we are convinced we’ve acted appropriately in this matter,” he said.
In Makula’s documentation requesting the temporary restraining order, which is effective until a hearing set for Sept. 30 at 10 am, he argues that the law does not apply retroactively to a vacancy that existed before it was passed.
The language of the order deems the new law “plain and unambiguous” in favor of Makula’s position that the law doesn’t apply retroactively. It also takes the position that not instituting a restraining order would cause irreparable harm.
“The issue is who gets to choose the trustee: defendant by appointment now, or the voters by election in April 2023,” the order reads. “Should the wrong decision be made, the injury would be irreparable and could not be compensated by money damages.”
Qadeer, who served on the Des Plaines Library Board before moving to unincorporated Maine Township and serving a short stint on the Niles Library Board, said he had gotten a phone call from Secretary of State’s office Wednesday afternoon.
“I was told that the Secretary of State’s legal team is working to get this order lifted as soon as possible,” he said. “Once that order is lifted, then I will be sworn in.”
Qadeer works as a patent lawyer and said his job has made him “used to this kind of nonsense.” He said he hasn’t yet seen the legal language barring him from being seated on the board.
“But I’m definitely looking forward to reviewing the basis on which the court granted this order,” he said.
This is not the first time Makula has taken legal action against another member of the library board. He also filed a lawsuit against current Trustee Becky Keane in December 2021, arguing that her appointment to a vacant seat on the board was illegal.
Qadeer said he would not attend the meeting scheduled for 6:30 pm Wednesday to avoid aggravating the situation.
Makula did not immediately respond to a phone call requesting comment.
This is a breaking news story. Check https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/niles/ for updates.