Early at the Annual conference of the American Library Association (ALA) copies of a page from Illinois Lawyer Now, a publication of the Illinois State Bar Association, were quietly distributed to members of the press. The page reported the disbarment and suspension of 11 Illinois attorneys. Included was the disbarment of Mary Frances Wilkens, a lawyer since 2006, who was charged with misappropriating $174,300.53 from ALA for her own personal use between 2006 and 2012. Wilkens was employed in the offices of ALA Booklist, the Association’s book review publication.
According to a statement released by ALA Treasurer Mario Gonzalez, whose term began at the conference, the misappropriation by Wilkens was discovered by ALA staff in the summer of 2012. Gonzalez said that Wilkens had been “caught through our internal controls process,” and that the funds were immediately and fully recovered. Wilkens was terminated, disbarred as an attorney, and is still under investigation by the authorities. The ALA Counsel had reported the situation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Gonzalez stated that although the officers and Executive Board of ALA were aware of the situation, “because an active investigation is underway, we are limited in what we can discuss.” He did report that although “no material deficiencies have ever been identified through these audits which contributed to the misappropriation,” following the incident, ALA requested a special audit of internal controls. The auditor made a number of recommendations to further strengthen those controls, all of which were implemented.