District 46 Pulls Agenda Item On E-mail Release Request
Board president Ray Millington removed a public discussion of e-mails involved in litigation from Wednesday's meeting agenda.
An updated agenda presented at Wednesday’s District 46 board meeting included an item under “Unfinished Business” calling for public discussion and a vote on a request to release controversial e-mails at the center of an investigation into alleged ethics violations committed during the spring elections.
No such discussion would be had.
At the start of the meeting, board president Ray Millington made a motion to strike the item from the agenda and move to closed session, which ultimately went on for nearly two hours.
“We’re not going to discuss it (publicly) because of pending litigation,” Millington told fellow board member Michael Carbone, who wanted the item left on the agenda for discussion.
Carbone then criticized Millington for removing the agenda item “at the last minute.”
“Board members have been asking about this since June,” said Carbone, referring to a determination by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office that District 46 could not withhold certain e-mails that had been requested in April by resident Lennie Jarratt through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
As board member Sue Facklam tried to interject, Carbone sniped, “Sue, you should not have discussion about this at all because you’re involved in this. Your name is all over these e-mails. You should recuse yourself.”
Jarratt, chairman of the Lake County Tea Party, said he launched his investigation due to concerns that district employees and board members were using school resources to campaign during the spring 2011 elections. Alleging ethics violations, Jarratt used the Freedom of Information Act to acquire copies of such correspondence.
This includes e-mails from former board president Mary Garcia sent from her work e-mail at Northbrook/Glenview District 30 and e-mails from Facklam that allude to her efforts to give gift cards to 18 year-olds who would register to vote for her.
Frustrated that District 30 had released 87 pages of FOIA’d documents while District 46 released just eight, Jarratt filed a formal complaint on Sept. 27 with the Lake County Circuit Court. He is seeking an injunction to force District 46 to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and release the requested documents. The district has 30 days from Oct. 1 to respond to the summons.
Jarratt, who was not present at Wednesday’s board meeting, told Patch.com he feels the district is trying to hide something because it has essentially ignored the Illinois Attorney General’s determination for months.
The board has agreed to a private investigation of the alleged ethics violations and appointed former Circuit Court Judge Henry Tonigan to lead it. However, Jarratt said Tonigan cannot proceed with without having access to all the e-mail documents in question.
On Wednesday, Carbone asked Millington what he intended to do as board president to rectify the matter. Millington said further consultation with counsel was necessary because he was only served the court summons Saturday.
Another lively discussion the board had upon returning from closed session concerned the district seeking RFP’s (Request for Proposal) from various attorneys to determine if there could be cost savings.
The district’s attorney for the past several years has been Kevin Gordon, of Chicago-based firm Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, but board member Shannon Smigielski suggested it would cost the district nothing and do no harm to seek bids from other firms wanting to compete for their business.
With contract negotiations coming in the near future, Facklam said she’d rather keep the district’s current counsel.
Outgoing business manager Todd Covault, who has accepted another position after only two months with District 46, advised that with the current issues at hand, it may be wise to keep Gordon’s firm rather than have another one play catch up.
“If we don’t ask, we won’t know,” said Smigielski, who suggested any savings be used to fund the needs of the students, such as new sports equipment.
“Sometimes it’s good to get new blood in,” said Carbone. "It’s not a bad thing.”