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Residents, Republicans angry about being barred from Grayslake library event; ‘The whole purpose of a public library is to have open information’

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 9/14/2022 Gavin Good, Chicago Tribune

Area residents, including some local Republican leaders, are expressing frustration over not being allowed to enter a talk that Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart gave to fellow Democrats at the Grayslake Area Public Library last week.

The Sept. 7 event — titled “The Myth of ‘Soft on Crime’” — featured a presentation from Rinehart on the “urgent need for criminal justice reform, gun safety and the myth that Democrats are soft on crime.”

Grayslake resident Thom Brasuell, Lake County Board member Dick Barr, former state Sen. Suzi Schmidt and several others were stopped from entering the meeting by Avon Township Democrats vice chairwoman Rachael Rezek, who is also the president of the Grayslake Public Library Board.

“Of course we had questions,” Barr told the News-Sun. “We didn’t know whether or not there would be a Q&A period. But, at the very least, we were very interested to hear what (Rinehart) had to say.”

Rezek asked if those wanting to enter were members of the sponsoring Democratic organizations in Avon, Libertyville, Lake Villa and Fremont townships. When they said no, she told them they couldn’t come in and that the meeting was not a library-sponsored event.

Brasuell, a former auxiliary deputy with the Lake County sheriff’s office, said he and other attendees wanted to hear what Rinehart had to say about the Safe-T Act, which will eliminate cash bail in Illinois and usher in other legal reforms.

“We had registered online, and nothing in the registration said anything about it being a members-only event,” he said.

Brasuell shared a flyer from Aug. 20 promoting the event that did not say the meeting was for members only. He said Rezek showed them a different flyer on-site which did say it was only for members, but it was not the one circulating on Facebook.

Barr livestreamed the incident to roughly 3,000 followers on his Facebook page. In the video, officers from the Grayslake police department could be seen interacting with involved parties outside the library.

“We did not disturb the middle of the meeting,” he said. “We were there before seven o’clock. We were lined up about seven minutes before seven. While our stay at the door lasted to about three minutes after seven, so it might have delayed his start a little bit, that was only because we were denied access and trying to find out reasons why.”

Rezek apologized at Tuesday night’s Grayslake Library Board meeting for not allowing the group to enter. Before she spoke, she shared a planned statement with the News-Sun, which promised to allow members of the public to attend any future library events she hosts.

“The library’s meeting room policy requires that all such events be open to the public, and I misinterpreted that part of the policy,” she said. “During that event, I turned away several people who wanted to attend.

“They should have been admitted,” Rezek continued. “I apologize to the people who were turned away, to the library staff and to the Grayslake Library community. This error was mine, and not theirs.”

Rinehart declined to comment when reached by phone on Tuesday.

Waukegan resident Abraham Avalos, who attempted to enter the meeting last week, expressed his disappointment at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“What happened was wrong,” Avalos said. “The whole purpose of a public library is to have open information. Obviously, this is one of the necessities that we need to have in society.”

After the meeting, Barr posted on Facebook that he will research which library board seats are up for election in the spring and will “start recruiting candidates.”

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