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Morton Grove Library workers under 17 won’t show movies any more

Morton Grove Library Trustee Cathy Peters, nor any other trustees will be punished or reprimanded for a standoff in which trustees disapproved of and stopped a 16-year-old employee from showing R-rated movies.  |  Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media
Morton Grove Library Trustee Cathy Peters, nor any other trustees will be punished or reprimanded for a standoff in which trustees disapproved of and stopped a 16-year-old employee from showing R-rated movies. | Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media

The Morton Grove Library now requires its employees to be at least 17-years-old in order to screen movies.

Library Director Pam Leffler announced the policy change on Sept. 19, when library trustees met for their monthly meeting. She also told trustees that the 16-year-old projectionist who was the center of controversy this summer is no longer working at the library, but declined to elaborate further for privacy reasons.

Afterward, Leffler said trustees want the library to abide by Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) guidelines, even though they’re not law.

Furthermore, the board will not pursue charges of ethics and Open Meetings Act violations against individual trustees.

The controversy began on June 25, when Library Trustee Cathy Peters witnessed the teenager showing “The Adventures of Prescilla, Queen of the Desert,” an R-rated movie about two drag queens and a transvestite touring the Australian outback.

Peters said she reached out to Leffler with concerns, asking why the girl was getting paid to show movies she would not be allowed to see herself without a parent being present.

After allegedly not reaching a solution with Leffler, Peters reached out to fellow trustees on an individual basis and claimed to have gotten a majority of the board to agree the girl should not have been screening the films.

Peters visited the library on July 23 to see if the girl was working because the scheduled film was “Safety Not Guaranteed,” an R-rated movie about three magazine writers researching a person who wants a time travel companion.

The teen was indeed working. Peters asked the girl to wait in the library’s office area, and then she approached Acting Director Kevin Justie about finding a different employee to show the film.

Peters claimed her intervention was an emergency situation because the library was not functioning in the best interest of its taxpayers. The standoff lasted for several weeks, and Peters or another trustee visited other R-rated movie screenings to make sure adult employees were in charge of the Baxter Auditorium.

Library Attorney Frank Tennant scolded trustees during their Aug. 18 board meeting, expressing concerns about a potential Open Meetings Act violation and other ethical issues.

Tennant said trustees only have authority when the board is collectively making decisions, and individual trustees randomly visiting the library should be treated like any other patron.

Library Trustee Arthur Goldstein expressed similar concerns and was upset that he was intentionally excluded from the situation.

Very little discussion on the age-related topic occurred, and at one point the board chose to continue talks in executive session. No resolution was publicly announced afterward.

Board President Mark Albers was out of the country on business during the first intervention, and claims to have no knowledge on the later series of events.

After the Sept. 19 board meeting, both Albers and Tennant said there will be no consequences stemming from the standoff. The library will not self-report an Open Meetings Act violation, nor will single out individual trustees.

Albers said one trustee went too far and is now aware of it. Otherwise, he said, the conflict has come and gone.

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