Blurred lines ‘thicken’ plot in East Cleveland Library saga

1/22/2014, 2:17 a.m.
a scandal so big someone better call Olivia Pope in to fix it...
East Cleveland Public Library


Staff Reporter

If you thought libraries were quiet, boring rest havens for bookworms… guess again.

The ordeal that has unfolded at the East Cleveland Public Library with the firing of its executive director, Sheeba Marcus-Bey, has been anything but quiet. In fact, it is definitely piquing interest and has bookworms digging up dirt.

For the past 3-plus years – since the retiring of former director Greg L. Reese, who held the position for 22 years – the library has had its share of internal turmoil yet has still managed to operate in the black. But operating “in the black” is, what some say, the root of an even bigger problem plaguing not only the independently run library, but the city of East Cleveland itself.

In the end, there’s a scandal so big someone better call Olivia Pope in to fix it.

The city is approximately 98 percent African American, the only one of its kind, operated by its kind, in the county. Talks of annexing the suburb keep surfacing in the conversation about the library debacle. In our last interview, then library board president William Fambrough and secretary Devin Branch were very vocal in speaking out against that process. In fact, all members of the board and the former executive director share the same thoughts in reference on this issue.

But, that may be the only subject where they agree. The Call & Post has interviewed both sides of this two-headed coin in an effort to allow opposing sides the opportunity to state their claim. Both heads have flipped the finger at the opposite side, pointing wrongdoing in the other direction either directly or legally.

Next, we spoke with Norma Freeman, a member of the East Cleveland Library board of trustees from February through October of 2013. Freeman was also a part of the strategic planning committee that created the mission and vision statements for the library. But, she never envisioned what would happen during her brief eight-month tenure as a member of the library’s trustee board.

“I was appointed to fill out the term of a former board member who had resigned,” said Freeman. “During my time served, I was part of the search team, the selection group and I was there to interview [Sheeba Marcus-Bey]. I was there for the entire process.”

As part of the selection and hiring process, Freeman admits that she, along with the other six members of the board, obviously felt Marcus-Bey was more than suited for the position. This was reflected in their unanimous vote to bring her on board.

“All of us, at the time of the selection, we thought she would be the best candidate from the pool that was available to us,” said Freeman. “There was no disagreement, no argument. We all voted for her as a total board.”

So what could have happened that changed that decision in the less than seven months that Marcus-Bey served as director? It would seem there were problems straight out of the gate. Freeman told the Call & Post her version of what transpired.