Teachers file open meetings act violation against D-155 board

Union files Open Meetings Act violation against board

CRYSTAL LAKE – Late-night agreements to give potential administrative raises and extend the superintendent’s contract have spurred the Community High School District 155 teachers’ union to file an Open Meetings Act violation complaint with the Illinois Attorney General.

After their February board meeting, District 155 board members went into closed session for a second time at 9:45 p.m. before returning to open session at 10:15 p.m. to approve superintendent Johnnie Thomas’ recommendation to budget increases for administrative salaries in 2014-15 and 2015-16. The vote received unanimous approval.

The board then returned to closed session before returning again to open session at 10:40 p.m. when it approved a three-year extension on Thomas’ contract subject to financial terms. That vote was also unanimous.

Because neither vote included financial details, both measures will have to come to the board in open session to become official, said district spokesman Jeff Puma.

But the manner in which the board carried out the process should be alarming to staff and the public, said union leader Justin Hubly, who added he believed the vote clearly violated the Open Meetings Act.

“Our members are just looking for this school board to be open and honest with the public and with us. We seem to miss that frequently,” Hubly said. “Why would you approve the superintendent contract without financial terms? What’s the purpose of that vote?”

The official complaint filed with the Illinois Attorney General states while the education association agrees the board can meet in closed session to discuss administrative contracts, the agenda item only said the board would meet to identify assistant superintendent positions.

Puma said the complaint likely referenced a preliminary agenda and an updated draft that included “administrative contracts” under closed session discussion items was distributed at the meeting and posted at the District 155 office 48 hours in advance.

Hubly said the agenda distributed at the meeting to association members in attendance did not have that item included.

“[The board] merely agreed to extend Dr. Thomas’ contract and budget for administrative salaries that may include raises,” Puma said. “Discussions about contract specifics will take place at a future meeting and will be approved in open session as required by the Open Meetings Act.”

The matter is still pending with the Illinois Attorney General.

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