More Of The “Culture of Secrecy” At District 64


On December 17, 2007, we published a post titled “A Culture Of Secrecy” in which we criticized local government secrecy which deprives the public of essential information about how the various branches of local government are being run.

Recently our friends over at the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board of Education displayed their continuing allegiance to that Culture of Secrecy with their opaque process for filling the Board vacancy created by the resignation of Board member Russ Gentile.

The D-64 Board claims to have received 18 applications for the vacancy, although we have to take their word for it because we can’t find any identification of the 17 candidates who weren’t chosen, nor any publication of those candidates’ respective qualifications and other credentials – just in case any ordinary citizen might be interested in who is seeking appointment to one of the two local taxing bodies (along with H.S. Dist. 207) which take the biggest bites out of our bank accounts.

The ringleader of this latest stealth effort appears to have been Board President John Heyde, whose 3+ year career in the “Heyde Seat” of the D-64 Board (wife Christina occupied it from 2003 to 2007) has been characterized by keeping as many things over at D-64 under the radar as possible.

We previously highlighted Heyde’s playing coy, if not deceptive, with the identity of the new superintendent, and information about teacher and administrator pay raises, and why the test scores of D-64 students don’t seem to rise to the level of the money the District is spending.

In riding herd on this secretive process for picking Gentile’s replacement, Heyde – with what appears to be the able assistance of stealthy new Supt. Philip Bender (obviously, a fast learner) – made sure that the applications would be reviewed only in closed session [pdf]; and Board members Sharon Lawson and Genie Taddeo cooperated by making the closed session motion [pdf] “to discuss the selection of a person to fill the Board vacancy position” that was unanimously approved, naturally.

Why weren’t those discussions in open session, accessible to the press and the public?  These candidates are being considered for a seat on the Board without even having to run for the position, so why should they get to escape all public scrutiny?  What is there to hide?

As best as we can tell, even the interviews of those purported 18 candidates were held in closed session, away from the prying eyes of the pesky press and the public – although we haven’t heard whether or not the candidates were instructed to travel to and from the interviews in disguise.

Surprisingly, the appointment of 7-year resident, Washington School parent, and CenterPoint Properties’ CIO Scott Zimmerman to fill Gentile’s chair until this coming’s April elections was announced by press release [pdf] rather than by a puff of white smoke from the chimney of the ESC.  That might be a signal the D-64 General Caucus wasn’t involved, although we wouldn’t bet the ranch on that given its historical dominance of D-64 elections.

The D-64 Board, with Heyde at the helm, once again has shown that it still believes it can pawn off these clandestine processes on a gullible public as “transparency.” And the public continues to prove them correct.

So welcome to D-64’s Culture of Secrecy, Mr. Zimmerman. 

Assuming that’s really your name.

18 comments so far

I’m sorry, maybe I just don’t get it, or maybe you aren’t building your argument. What exactly is the benefit to open interviews? Why “public scrutiny” for someone who isn’t going to get the job? To me it just sounds like you’ve found another excuse to rant about closed sessions, which the Board has every right to hold.

Fire…give them an inch and they take a mile.


The policy of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (IOMA) is that ALL public meetings should be open, but that some limited ones are permitted – but not required – to be closed. So you can count on us to oppose closed sessions in almost every circumstance, as we have done.

“What exactly is the benefit to open interviews?” Information and transparency, that’s what. Either you get that or you don’t.

We also note that we could find nothing in the D-64 Board’s meeting minutes that explained why Pres. Heyde and his six colleagues felt compelled to hide the process in closed session. As far as we’re concerned, that doesn’t speak well for any of those seven “people’s representatives.”

You didn’t include all the pages from the August 23 meeting minutes, but I see from the attendees mentioned on the first page that no board attorney was there, even though the August 9 minutes said there would be one there on August 23 to answer questions about the “process.” I guess all they needed to know about the “process” was that they could do it in secret.

How can it possibly be OK to choose a purported representative of the taxpayers in secret?

They should leave the seat open until the November election when it should appear on the ballot. There would be little if any extra cost to the School District to conduct that election. That is the only right way to do it.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  It’s “okay” because not enough people beef about it every time it happens, just like nobody beefs about any of the closed sessions the D-64 Board, the City Council, et al. regularly run into whenever they can.  From what we’ve seen over he years, we suspect that most of those officials would prefer to hold their meetings in a locked bunker with no videotape, no audiotape and no minutes – other than, perhaps, minutes sanitized for their protection and aggrandizement.

But as for your idea about a November election for the vacancy, as we understand Illinois law that controls this process, there would need to be an election for that vacancy in April no matter what – so having an election in November whose effect would last for only 5 months may theoretically be possible but not all that practical, other than as a reaction to the Culture of Secrecy as practiced by Mr. Heyde, Ms. Lawson, Ms. Taddeo, Mr. Smart, Mr. Fioretto, Mr. Uhlig and our new superintendent.

Ah, but when is the next budget going to be debated and adopted? Will an un-elected “representative” be spending taxpayer funds between now and April?

9:48 and 10:48, don’t look now but the General Caucus (with the help of the teacher’s union) has already started working on its slate of D-64 candidates for April’s election. Besides filling the last two years of Gentile’s term, Heyde’s, Taddeo’s and Smart’s terms are expiring.

That’s a majority right there, so you can be sure the Caucus will be making sure it’s got the “right” people for the job. BOHICA!

PubDog and Readership: I confess I spent a couple of days thinking about applying for the open position. Based on this report I’m glad I didn’t apply.

Thinking back, it seems there was a very short interval between the announcement of the opening and the deadline to apply. This left me little time.

I do recall PubDog’s previous posts about D-64 and the culture of secrecy. One thing sticks out in my mind, the process of getting on the ballot.

Is it true that a candidate must pass an audition with the General Caucus or some other group just to get on the ballot? Or is it just to get on their slate?

How DOES one get on the April ballot?

Last thing: Would D-64 kindly respond to this discussion and if they can, rebut? If not, we can only conclude that PubDog is 100% correct.

5th Ward Taxpayer on 09.17.10 12:27 pm said the following:

Would D-64 kindly respond to this discussion and if they can, rebut? If not, we can only conclude that PubDog is 100% correct.

That would be an erroneous conclusion. There is no compulsion for anyone to respond on this or any other blog. If that were the case, then all the times the mayor or the pubdog editor or tony scivicini or anna dudzik have not responded to questions about their involmement in corruption, past and potential legal charges and/or convictions would lead one to only conclude they are guilty of such. They may or may not be, but failure to respond on this blog or any other does not a conclusion make. This would apply to any other person(s) or groups mentioned in past on this or any other blog.

The one conclusion that can be accurately drawn from viewing comments on this blog is that none can be accurately drawn because it is a format that is rife with speculation, conjecture and the tendancy for the promulgation of canards that could be construed as so fanciful it borders on the laughable. This forum is for opinion which is not the same as fact.

5th Ward Taxpayer:

Anybody can obtain a spot on the ballot by collecting and filing the requisite number of petition signatures – the Caucus can’t control that.

What the Caucus does is sprout up every two years to serve as a de facto political party to recruit, screen and endorse a slate of candidates. It’s theater, albeit theater of the absurd.

And if past practice is a guide, should anybody dare run against the Caucus slate – as occurred in 1997, when a competing “slate” of 3 candidates (Charles Baldacchino, Nancy Buckely and Maureen Gleason) raised the issue of weak test scores and student performance generally in challenging the Caucus’ 4-person slate (Jane Curry, Marty Joyce, Dean Krone and John Pierce) for the 4 board  vacancies – the Caucus will mobilize to actually fundraise and campaign against such interlopers.

If that occurs, the Caucus might even recruit the Lincoln Middle School Jazz Band to play at their “victory party” at the Marriott, as happened back in 1997 before then-Supt. Fred Schroeder started catching heat and put the kibosh on that plan.

All that being said, challengers to the Caucus’ hegemony might find the political climate around town a bit more hospitable today than back then.  We here at PublicWatchdog hope there are some, so that voters start having choices for the D-64 board.


Well stated. Alas that is part of the whole game at this blog. It is also a strategy used in the national media. Throw out a theory with no supporting verifiable data. Say it often enough and it becomes “fact”. Suddenly it becomes if they do not come here and address it it must be true!! The perfect analogy is the birther movement. Claim he was born in Kenya with no facts to back it up. Suddenly it becomes well if he does not come here and address it in the way we want him to he must have been born in Kenya. 5th ward apparently buys into this hook line and sinker.

What!!!!!!!!!! 1997 was before my move to Park Ridge, but that sounds incredible! I can’t believe the Caucus or anybody else could get away with that.


You are quite accurate with your assesment of the whole phenomena of the “big lie” modus operandi used by this and other blogs. Why, it is nothing more than the whole leninesque use of the name “bolshiveik” which indicates large group and label the opposition “minishiviek” or small group” whilst the reality was the inverse. but they that yell loudest seemingly create the perception. That is until TRUTH hits them squarely between the eyes. Sacred text advises that the faithful can rely on and have hope in the fact that TRUTH will win out.

Here’s hoping that TRUTH moves with rapidity and establishes itself so perception and reality are aligned to the TRUTH.

Anon 3:02

Get away with what?

Hi everyone. I will admit that my assertion, “we can only conclude PubDog is 100% correct,” was meant to incite a response. I succeeded.

PubDog, thanks for your comment Friday the 17th at 1:32 p.m. which clarified the process for someone wanting to get on the school board and stop the profligate spending that shows up on our property tax bills two times a year.

Anon Friday the 17th at 12:58 p.m., if this blog and its comments are so flimsy, then feel free to educate us on the nomination process or whatever question someone asks.

Anon Friday the 17th at 2:07 p.m., I’m really not certain how you wound up at the topic of the President’s birthplace, but I assure you that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.

The topic here isn’t birth certificates, though, it’s property tax bills. If you like yours, then God bless you.

5th ward:

Good luck with your decision related to the school board. I have to admit I am a bit concerned about someone dealing with complex school related issues who cannot see a crystal clear analogy.

Have a nice day!!

5th ward

We don’t need another Alderman Bach on the Council or the School Board making assinine statements to incite a response.

Stay home.


The D-64 Board traditionally is filled – courtesy of the Caucus – with people “who cannot see a crystal clear analogy.” And so long as the Caucus continues to dominate that electoral process, such people are 1st round draft picks.

As for “dealing with complex school related issues,” what’s so hard about doing what the D-64 Board, irrespective of its composition, has traditionally done: spend money?