Fireworks went off in Grayslake when Lake County Tea Party Chair Lennie Jarratt filed a complaint about the improper use of District 46 email by the superintendent and school board members. Words like “inappropriate” and “unethical” made their way into the conversations of concerned community members and parents.
Questions remain about emails sent during the re-election campaigns of two D46 school board incumbents, Sue Facklam and Mary Garcia. Garcia did not win re-election; Facklam did.
Various officials are now grappling with this question: Do the alleged actions only violate school codes, or are they illegal?
The allegations are under review by the Lake County State’s attorney’s office. “Should we choose to investigate, we would then determine is further action is warranted,” said Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Dan Jasica.
“School District 46 has its own governing board in local government. The election issues are being reviewed by other organizations, such as the State Board, and it may fall to these other agencies to handle,” Jasica said.
While many corporate or private employers allow for some personal e-mail usage as long as it is not excessive, individuals in a public or governmental role must abide by a more stringent set of rules that specifically rule out any political activity.
“We have to look to the State’s Attorney’s office to determine if something illegal has been done,” said Roycealee Wood, Regional Superintendent of Schools for Lake County.
“Our office is involved if there is wanton neglect of duties by a school board member and this does not fall into that category. I only know of one time that we removed a board member and that was because the person never attended a board meeting. This current situation may have something to do with election laws and that is why the State’s Attorney is involved.”
The State of Illinois does not mince words regarding the seriousness of misusing state resources for this purpose:
Sec. 5‑15. Prohibited political activities.
(a) State employees shall not intentionally perform any prohibited political activity during any compensated time (other than vacation, personal, or compensatory time off). State employees shall not intentionally misappropriate any State property or resources by engaging in any prohibited political activity for the benefit of any campaign for elective office or any political organization.
The States Attorney’s office will ultimately make that decision if the allegations are substantiated, and if so, what actions would be taken.
“There is no timeframe because we have to review the charges and another agency could end up handling,” said Jasica.
While some parents at recent board meetings have said that they just want the school to focus on providing quality programs for their kids, Jarratt continues to assert that the actions border on criminal. He said they are using the taxpayers' money for personal agendas.
Some residents agree with him.
"I haven't seen any shock or dismay from the board or the superintendent," said resident Mike Brown during public comment. "Us taxpayers have been struggling. This room, this table, we've paid for with our taxes. Do you have any concept of how wrong it is for you to use our time for an election?"