Public Watchdog.org

More IOMA Mockery From D-64

02.17.16

It’s been awhile – December 2015 – since we last looked at that bastion of non-transparency and un-accountability: the School Board and Administration of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64.

But one of our “stringers” tipped us to the latest anti-transparency move by the D-64 leadership team of Board president Anthony Borrelli and Supt. Laurie Heinz, both of whom seem to revel in the District’s opacity even as they proclaim it crystal clear – and credit themselves as the Keepers of the Windex.

That move? The creation of two new D-64 Board committees: a “Finance Committee” and a “Building & Sites Committee.”

Both of these new committees appear to be the brain-children of Luann Kolstad, who must have been given the title of “Chief School Business Official” when she was hired to replace Rebecca Allard, whose $200,000+ salary was paid while she held the more mundane “Business Manager” title.

The creation of two new Board committees normally wouldn’t be noteworthy if not for Kolstad’s –and the Board’s – expressed intention that they operate in a decidedly non-transparent and non-accountable manner.

Need proof? Check out Kolstad’s 02.08.16 memo.

You’ll see that the purpose of these new committees is ostensibly “[t]o facilitate more streamlined Board meetings.” Translation: shorter meetings with even more pre-chewed and pre-determined decisions than usual, rendering the mandatory “public” discussion and vote more of a charade to fool the rubes.

And if you listen to Kolstad’s explanation of this concept on the 02.08.16 meeting video (from 1:08:30 to 1:45:30) you’ll hear her claim that she doesn’t want to burden all seven Board members with reviewing the District’s annual $70 million-plus budget “line by line” but, instead, would prefer committees of only two Board members so that she could “kind of walk them through it” – presumably in that stereotypical “Move along, folks, there’s nothing to see here” kind of way.

But the darkest side of Kolstad’s proposal is the reason why she wants to limit each of these committees to only two Board members: so that each of those committee’s meetings will “not [be] subject to the Open Meetings Act so we do not need to post notification of the meetings ahead of time.”

Nor, presumably, will they need to keep “public” meeting minutes and make video recordings of those meetings.

Whether Kolstad’s actions reflect outright contempt for the taxpayers’ rights to see and hear what the District is doing with all their money, or whether she is just tone-deaf to those rights, is unclear. But the fact that she brazenly put this stuff in a memo suggests that she cares not one whit about transparency and the accountability it produces.

So how did our seven elected School Board representatives react to such blatant anti-transparency and anti-accountability? Pretty much like a tiny herd of clueless sheep. And with pretty much the level of comprehension Kolstad appears to be seeking in the folks who will populate her new committees: “individuals with little experience in either [finance or facilities] are ideal candidates” – presumably because they are so much easier for Kolstad and her accomplices to bamboozle.

Paging Vickie Lee…paging Vickie Lee. Ms. Lee, please report to the Finance Committee sign-in desk for your credentials and goodie bag.

Sadly, the most intelligent questions raised about these two new committees – actually the only intelligent questions raised about these committees – came not from any Board member but from resident Joan Sandrik, starting at the 1:38:25 mark of the video.

Sandrik rightly questioned how Kolstad could claim these two-Board member committees aren’t covered by IOMA when an Illinois Attorney General opinion from 1982 clearly states that IOMA covers meetings not only of school boards but also of “any subsidiary bodies…including but not limited to committees and subcommittees” of those boards. In fact, the last page of that A.G.’s opinion expressly addresses the status of a two member committee of a seven-member board:

[T]he creation of two member committees by a seven member public body does not operate to circumvent the provisions of the Open Meetings Act since the Act applies separately to the committees.

Although A.G. opinions are not binding on Illinois courts, the Illinois Supreme Court has long held that “a well-reasoned opinion of the Attorney General is entitled to considerable weight in resolving a question of first impression in this State regarding the construction of an Illinois statute” like IOMA. City of Springfield v. Allphin, 74 Ill.2d 117 (1979).

And we’re pretty darn sure a court would give that A.G. opinion a whole lot more weight than it would give the totally-wrong-but-never-in-doubt opinion of Borrelli: “Two Board members together does not constitute a majority of a quorum…it’s quite clear that you have to have a majority of persons, a majority of a quorum of the Board…a majority of a majority” (video,, 1:39:06 to 1:39:30), an opinion on which Kolstad and Heinz happily sang back-up

To Sandrik’s credit, she wasn’t deterred by the dismissiveness of Borrelli, Kolstad and Heinz.

“I also don’t know why something as important as finance, why you wouldn’t do a committee of the whole…isn’t that important to every one of you to know where the dollars are being spent? Why would you limit the specifics to two [Board members]?”

Exactly.

IOMA exists to ensure transparency and accountability from public officials who prefer to hide their activities from the taxpayers, especially the boards and administrations of our two school districts who, combined, spend approximately 70% of all our property taxes. Public bodies like the D-64 Board should be embracing IOMA, not trying to run away from it or find ways around it. But transparency and accountability have never been D-64’s strong suit, despite Borrelli’s repeated insistence to the contrary.

Example: Has anybody seen the minutes of all those closed-session meetings Borrelli presided over last spring and summer, or those “outstanding” performance evaluations that purportedly justified a one-year extension of his BFF Heinz’s contract and a raise? Anybody? Bueller?

If this Borrelli-led D-64 Board truly believed in transparency and accountability, they would have told Kolstad – immediately, definitively and unanimously – “No!” as soon as she suggested that this misbegotten committee structure was intended to avoid IOMA compliance and public oversight.

But this Board doesn’t believe.

So, instead, Borrelli pontificates either cluelessly or dishonestly about IOMA’s requirements, backed up by an equally clueless or dishonest Kolstad and Heinz. And the rest of the Board provides blank looks and slack jaws.

Thankfully, some comic relief was provided by Tom Sotos, twisting like Gumby to get himself to where he can praise the new committee structure in as earnest a voice as he can muster: “In reality it’s a little more transparency.”

Sure it is, Tom.

And the Easter Bunny will be visiting you soon.

To read or post comments, click on title.

13 comments so far

Funny how you managed to make it through the entire piece without mentioning Paterno (you endorsed) and Eggemann (you endorsed). Just another example of selective beating by the ole’ PD!! If you are in his group you get a pass.

The Eggemann over site or pass is especially egregious. Let’s review a few direct quotes from his campaign website:

“Finally, we must insist on complete transparency by the D64 Board and the administration…..”

“I appreciate that D64 has an ambitious Strategic Planning Steering Committee that has reached out to all parents for input on their priorities through the year 2020, but I would like to see all taxpayers included in this initiative”.

It would seem to me that Finanance and Buildings and Sites would be a part of strategic planning or at least an off shoot. Either way all taxpayers should be included or at a minimum have these issues discussed openly.

My favorite quote from his site is right in the banner.

“It’s your school board. I will demand that we do better, and do it out in the open. Our students and taxpayers deserve nothing less”…….Yeah right!!!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Funny how you manage to ignore the fact that we also failed to mention Zimmerman and Johnson, neither of whom we endorsed.

And funny how you manage to ignore the fact that if we were consumed with protecting Paterno or Eggemann, we would not be giving you the opportunity to slag ’em with your anonymous sniping.

After watching that part of the video, were it not for Ms. Sandrik this would have gone through without a hitch, and with Sotos and Eggemann believing that less IOMA compliance means even more transparency.

In the past I thought you have been too harsh toward the D-64 board, but this makes me think that you may not have been harsh enough.

How offensive that a senior adminisrator is creating mini-committees to avoid IOMA transparency but Sotos can call it more transparency. Reminds me of 1984’s “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength” Pretty darn sad.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It looked and sounded like Tom was hoping for a pat on the head, and maybe a tummy rub, from Borrelli and Heinz.

Kolstad can’t write a report that anybody but Johnson can read? Does that mean Johnson can’t be on the finance committee because he’s not dumb enough for Kolstad’s ideal candidate? So the ideal dumb candidates are supposed to understand Kolstad well enough to ask intelligent questions?

This sounds like a SNL skit.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Only goofier.

We’d cast Cecily Strong as Heinz, but we’ll hold an open casting call for the roles of Borrelli and Kolstad.

Doggie, you (and your know-nothing commentors, who hate on Paterno, Sotos and Eggeman) jumped the shark on this one. Get your facts straight.

Committees of a public body consisting of less than a majority of a quorum of such body are subject to the requirements of IOMA. 1982 Ill. Op. Att’y Gen. 88.

As if that weren’t enough, D-64’s policy 2:150 states that “board committees shall comply with the Open Meetings Act.” This policy applies to all “board committees.” It does not matter how many board members are on the committee. The IASB’s model policy and comments permit a policy which would require the appointment of “no more than two board members to a board committee,” because it would still be subject to IOMA. D-64’s policy doesn’t have any such restrictions. D-64’s IOMA policy applies to all board committees regardless of how many board members are on a board committee.

Did your ‘stringers’ not tell you that the D-64 board and Dr. Heinz agreed at the last meeting IOMA procedures would apply to the board’s new finance committees? Did you leave this fact out so you could write your nasty article?

The only valid point you make is that the administration would likely enjoy the opportunity to dupe regular members of the community regarding its budget, since they may be easier to swindle than the board (except for Vicki Lee), unless you are saying that the board has the express intention disregarding the law, ignoring its own policy, and breaching the consensus it came to at its last meeting? Is that what you are saying?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Apparently Kolstad didn’t know any of this when she wrote her memo. And apparently Borrelli and Heinz didn’t know this when they argued against Ms. Sandrik’s request for IOMA compliance.

As we understand it, D-64’s policies are not legally binding on, or legally enforceable against, the Board and/or Administration. But even if they were, any attempt by citizens to enforce them could be easily be frustrated by the simple act of the Board’s changing them.

Lastly, our post is based entirely on “the last meeting” – February 8, 2016 – of the D-64 Board. Nothing on the video (1) unqualifiedly rejected Kolstad’s “IOMA doesn’t apply” memo, or (2) formally committed the Board – by an actual roll-call VOTE of the Board members, not some vague, half-baked “consensus” – to full compliance with ALL IOMA requirements for these two new committees.

To the contrary, Kolstad reiterates – from 1:37:40 to 1:38:10 – that each of these new committee meetings is “not an open meeting.” And the 7 D-64 sheeple acquiesced.

THAT’S why we wrote our “nasty article,” and THAT’S why we’re sticking with it – notwithstanding your anonymous (Board member? Administrator? Teacher? Run-of-the-mill D-64 apologist?) attempt at revisionist history.

Eggeman asks for public agenda notices and open public bd committee meetings at 1:27:00 of the bd meeting video.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s not remotely close to full IOMA compliance because notices and agendas, without the informational packets, are next to worthless; and, as Kolstad insisted later on in the discussion, “it’s not an open meeting” so the public won’t even be allowed to speak at those meetings.

Eggemann may be the tallest midget in this particular circus, but that’s really not saying much when we’re talking about IOMA and the public’s right to be fully informed about – and to actively and knowledgably participate in – the deliberations over how $70 million-plus of their tax dollars will be spent.

Excellent post. But you won’t see 100 responses like a library change, which is sad.
What secret power does the D64 administration wield that changes Borelli…and even Eggeman? They went in with promise, but then all just turn into administrations robots.

And what is Sotos????? No idea what he’s doing there and why.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Most comments about the Library were likely from tutors who don’t want to start paying overhead that they used to get for free; or from customers who don’t want to pay overhead charges passed through to them by the tutors; or from Library employees who don’t want to have to enforce the new rule or run the risk that declining Library attendance might cause layoffs.

Too many public officials quickly drink the group-think Kool-Aid and become intoxicated by the power to make some people happy by spending the taxpayers’ money, especially since the taxpayers rarely wish to suffer the slings and arrows fired at them by the freeloader contingent. And our public schools, with the teachers unions leading the way, have been masterful in branding anybody critical of the schools or teachers as “anti-child.”

And as we pointed out in our 03.31.15 post, Sotos was the PREA’s adopted candidate once Kristin Gruss got tossed off the ballot. So he’ll be taxing, borrowing and spending – preferably out of the taxpayers view, like he so happily did with Heinz’s closed-session review, extension and raise – whenever the PREA tell his it’s okay.

What were these people thinking?

Open meetings under IOMA should be the rule, with few if any exceptions. Creating committees to intentionally circumvent IOMA is completely and irretrievably wrong. Kolstad should be fired.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just more hard evidence that this D-64 Board ranks “transparency” and “accountability” right up there with cholera and pulmonary embolisms.

“Most comments about the Library were likely from tutors who don’t want to start paying overhead that they used to get for free; or from customers who don’t want to pay overhead charges passed through to them by the tutors; or from Library employees who don’t want to have to enforce the new rule or run the risk that declining Library attendance might cause layoffs.”

Don’t forget us out-of-state rubberneckers, Bob. Ever since your ‘parasite’ comments went viral in the library trade journals, I’m sure you’ve attracted no small audience of people who just want to see how this slow-motion trainwreck plays out.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Slow-motion trainwreck”? More like a slow-moving tricycle bumping into a Wiffle Ball.

The budget” is really job #1 for the elected school board. In theory, or at least in practice, school board members — three of whom I consider to be personal friends, so this is not a slam — aren’t allowed to intervene in day-to-day administration. But they darn well were elected to oversee the budget, and should do it out in the open.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Oh, it will be “out in the open” – assuming you want to show up at 7:00 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. on a week day, and don’t have any desire to ask any questions or make any comments. But don’t expect to get a board “packet” so you can read along with the information Kolstad and her dwarves will have, or to have a meeting video to watch if you can’t get to the meeting.

Kolstad can’t write a report that anybody but an MBA can understand?

EDITOR’S NOTE: That seems to be what she was saying when she said only Johnson could understand them.

Only 11 comments about something this important, the violation of IOMA, but scores of comments about tutors losing their rent-free space. Messed up priorities, it seems.

You haven’t done your homework!

D207 and the Park District also have finance committees as well. Same rules of having only one or two elected officials. Same goal of shortening the overall meetings. Why is it ok for those groups to have this structure and not D64?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We believe the PRPD has a Committee Of the Whole structure, not any “one or two” commissioner committees.

As for D-207, it has three-person committees. But so long as they comply with IOMA, they’re legal – unlike D-64’s planned IOMA-disregarding two-person committees.



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