Public Watchdog.org

Let’s Pretend…That The D-64 Board Was Transparent To Its Taxpayers (Updated)

09.25.15

Today we’re going to play a game of “Let’s Pretend.”

Let’s pretend you’re a member of the board of directors of a $70 million service company that employs a few hundred people.

One day someone at the company discovers that a particular employee “engaged in dishonest and unprofessional conduct” during a one-year period that cost the company thousands of dollars. And upon this discovery being made, the company conducts an internal investigation that confirms the employee’s dishonesty and extent of the company’s loss.

And let’s pretend that, upon receiving the investigator’s report, the company’s CEO – whom you and your fellow board members consider such a superstar that, after only one year into her original 3-year contract, you unanimously extend her contract another year at its $250,000-plus salary – recommends the employee be fired.

Would you review the investigation report, accept your superstar CEO’s recommendation, and authorize the firing of that dishonest employee?

If you said “No!” then you’re qualified to be Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board member.

Because, as reported in an online Park Ridge Herald-Advocate story (“School officials mum on Park Ridge teacher’s $16,500 fine.” September 22, 2015), that $70 million “company” is D-64; the employee reportedly is D-64 middle-school teacher Kate De La Pasqua; and the superstar CEO is Supt. Laurie Heinz.

Since this was a D-64 Board decision, you don’t have to read the H-A story to know that every important discussion and decision related to it was held in closed session.

When it comes to hiding from the taxpayers, Board president Tony Borrelli’s transformation into predecessor John Heyde is almost complete: watch the opening minutes of a few Board meeting videos and you can almost feel Borrelli’s delight over running into closed session – which seems to have become a permanent feature of every Board meeting – so that he and his backbone-challenged fellow Board members [Mark Eggemann cast the only “no” vote on this closed session] can talk with the kind of candor they’re afraid to express in open session.

Or maybe they just don’t want a public record of their cluelessness and/or spinelessness.

According to the H-A article, the District cut a deal with De La Pasqua that includes a “remedial warning” and a $16,500 “fine.” And because the deal was cut in D-64’s Star Chamber, not only did the District fail to post even a redacted copy of the settlement agreement or any details of the settlement on the District’s website prior to the August 27th meeting when the deal was approved, but it made sure the settlement agreement contained a confidentiality clause.

The better to make sure that not only would no member of the press or public get any advance warning of this latest pre-cooked morsel of Board business-as-usual, but that they would have trouble learning about it even after the deal was done.

To its credit, however, the H-A issued a FOIA request and, in response, D-64’s minister of propaganda and disinformation, Bernadette Tramm, produced a highly-redacted copy of the agreement and notice of remedial warning that blacked out any information about the charges against De La Pasqua – other than that she “failed to adhere” to a D-64 employee ethics policy and some unspecified Board policy.

So if you pretend you’re a D-64 Board member who actually believes in honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability in D-64 governance, would you say: “Gee, Ms. Tramm, can’t you publish the redacted version of the settlement agreement on the City’s website so that no FOIA request is required?”

Apparently not.

And when the H-A asked for an un-redacted copy of the settlement, Tramm pled privacy concerns and cited the Illinois School Student Records Act, 105 ILCS 10, et seq.  So the H-A reportedly is taking its case to the Illinois Attorney General. And good for it.

Naturally, this kind of backroom deal-making has led to a lot of speculation and rumors, with the most interesting one being that De La Pasqua and her hubby may have scammed D-64 out of thousands of dollars in tuition by lying about the residency of some un-named (wink, wink) student(s).

Based on the 2-year old D-64 salary data we could find, De La Pasqua should be making over $100,000. And she is listed as the owner of a condo at 1301 W. Touhy Avenue that she purchased for $125,000 in 2014. But public records also show a “Katherine De La Pasqua” at 5024 Nagle Ave., Chicago.

Hmmm….

We also find it interesting that the settlement included a $16,500 “fine” which – SURPRISE!– D-64 apparently has not explained. Does that amount represent D-64’s total loss from whatever “dishonest and unprofessional conduct” De La Pasqua allegedly engaged in, or just a small fraction of it – with the remainder having been negotiated away by the Board and, consequently, eaten by the D-64 taxpayers?

And if she ripped off D-64’s taxpayers for that much, is she being charged interest for the one year (until June 2016) she and her hubby are getting to pay it back?

A few years ago we published a post about how D-64’s botching of small tasks – at that time, the school lunch supervision program – very well may portend the botching of much bigger tasks. This $16,500 backroom deal with De la Pasqua is another one of those small tasks.

Meanwhile, the same Board members who just a few months ago unanimously proclaimed Heinz a superstar, and extended her contract like one, have signaled that on a small matter such as this they might not really trust her judgment.

With teacher union contract negotiations on the horizon, that does not bode well for D-64 taxpayers who can count on nothing more than being kept in the dark by this decidedly non-transparent Board.

UPDATED 09.27.15.  On of our readers in the real estate business has advised us that Ms. De La Pasqua sold the Nagle property in 2010 and purchased 6234 N. Olcott (Norwood Park, Chicago) that same year.

To read or post comments, click on title.

9 comments so far

I plan to attend the D64 meeting on Monday evening to express my concern. I encourage anyone else to attend and make their feelings known as well.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s very brave of you, Ms. Sandrick, because the D-64 Board frowns on being held accountable for anything.

And you had better bone up on your Illinois Open Meetings Act and the Illinois School Student Records Act (105 ILCS 10/1, et seq.) because they will try to bamboozle you with a lot of legal jibber jabber as an alibi for their non-transparency and Star Chamber proceedings.

Good luck.

I think you are onto something about the embezzlement being a lot more than $16,500 and that being some kind of discount settlement.

I pretty much learned IOMA from this blog and the board’s closed sessions on this topic were voluntary choices by the board, except Eggemann. I am no lawyer but I just read the School Records Act and do not see how Sec.2 (“School Student Record”) and Sec. 6 would prevent an open session discussion of the teacher’s wrongdoing if the student(s) involved were not identified by name in the discussion. They could be “Student A” or “Students A and B.”

But if you live for closed sessions they become like nails to a hammer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And there’s a lot of hammering going on at D-64.

I’ve attended D64 meetings for the purpose of speaking up, and the Board members and Staffers just sit and smile politely. No answers, never. No dialogue. They just grin and bear it until you’re done and then go back to what they were already doing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That has been the case going back 20 years. But if people don’t show up, they don’t even have to sit and smile politely.

And that will continue until we get better quality candidates who aren’t rubber-stamps for the administrators and pawns of the PREA.

Does this teacher have children? Did she get caught in the residency check?

EDITOR’S NOTE: D-64 isn’t telling. But try showing up at a meeting and asking that question.

The Park Ridge Library has a budget of $4 (5?) million and gets 50 comments, D64 has a $70 million budget. So who gets 50 comments and who gets 2?

People in Park Ridge have skewed priorities.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t disagree, although all of those comments came from only 18 different commentators, wwith 16 of those comments coming from Library employee Laura Enright; and another 8 of them coming from the same person who posted on 09.26 @ 4:35 pm.

If she has children though wouldn’t that child’s records be protected by the law someone cited above?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Maybe. But that doesn’t mean the Board has to run off and hide the entire proceeding in closed session.

As we understand that law, so long as neither the names nor addresses of the children are identified, there is nothing about this situation that the Board couldn’t talk about in open session – assuming that the hide-and-seekers on the Board actually wanted to do so. And there are plenty of ways to do so…IF the hide-and-seekers wanted to do so.

But we all know the answer to that question.

But even if the teachers child’s name was not used wouldn’t that child’s privacy rights be compromised if the board disclosed that “student A, the child of this teacher was not a resident of d64” – the child has rights that shouldn’t be abrogated because of the parents sins. Correct?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are not sure that the child’s “privacy” under the school records act would be implicated in a prohibited fashion.

Unfortunately, it appears that D-64, in its typical non-transparent fashion, has not provided a detailed chapter-and-verse explanation of what specific statutory provisions warranted the entire situation being locked down in closed session.

The Illinois School Student Record Act, 105 ILCS 10/2 (d) specifically provides that “the “School Student Record” means any writing or other recorded information concerning a student and by which a student may be individually identified, maintained by a school or at its direction or by an employee of a school, regardless of how or where the information is stored.”

That’s a direct quote, btw, copied verbatim from the statue in question. If these settlement documents contain student information as outlined by the Student Record Act it would unquestionably be a violation of the law for the District to release them. That you, a man who holds himself out as a licensed attorney, would advocate that an unredacted version of those documents be release in violation of law is frankly appalling.

The last thing we as taxpayers need is the for the School District to invite additional and costly litigation. Which is precisely what it would be opening itself up to if it violated the very clear terms set out in the School Record Act. Jump up and down on your soapbox all you want. But don’t do that by in effect agitating for violating the law in the process.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nice attempt at misdirection – you could fill in for Propaganda Minister Benadette Tramm – but we never advocated a violation of the Student Record Act.

We criticized the D-64 Board for requiring a FOIA request by the H-A, which apparently came only AFTER the August 27 Board meeting at which the kinky settlement was approved, before it provided a copy of the redacted settlement agreement and notice of remedial warning. And the Board’s hiding in secretive closed session when it didn’t have to, which apparently is the only way this Board knows how to do its business.

PD:

I am hoping you are banging away on a post on the article in today’s HA about more cost overruns for Prospect Park. Typical government…..oversell, get the votes and then under deliver.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes we are.

But while the Park District’s executive director, her staff, and some Park Board members were doing whatever they could to produce low-ball estimates in order to improve their chances of selling the public on the Prospect Park referendum, a number of regular citizens also were part of that propaganda machine. And no citizens such as yourself organized any kind of “Truth Squad” to call them out on that propaganda and demand reality checks either initially or along the way.

So just like Mountcastle and her Minions did their bait-and-switch with features like the “lazy river” at the Centennial Water Park, the same thing is now happening at Prospect Park. Because, like leopards, disingenous wink-and-nod politicians and bureaucrats NEVER change their spots.

And sleeping, feckless taxpayers rarely wake up and take action.



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