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updated: 10/13/2010 12:12 PM

Dist. 15 moves meeting on $27 million referendum

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An informational meeting today on Palatine Township Elementary District 15's $27 million bond referendum has been moved to a new location to accommodate the large crowd expected.

The meeting, initially planned at Plum Grove Junior High, now will begin at 1 p.m. at Culver's 1410 E. Algonquin Road, near the corner of Algonquin and Meacham roads.

The hearing has sparked some controversy as opponents of the bond issue are accusing school district officials of using the session to seek support for the measure.

But interim Superintendent Scott Thompson says as long as officials don't advocate for a yes-or-no vote, he's not violating any election law or ethics code.

"It's my responsibility to share the information as the leader of this district, Thompson said. "I'm sharing what my recommendation would be to the board if voters approve (the loan).

Thompson has said he'd recommend the board approve borrowing just $16 million to fund capital improvements and eliminate the more controversial working cash fund proposal. He has accepted invitations to speak at homeowners associations, a chamber of commerce and another PTA group.

Rupert Borgsmiller, assistant executive director of the state board of elections, agreed that as long as officials don't try to sway voters, District 15 is protected under the Election Interference Act.

"If what they're saying is factual and not advocating support or defeat, it would appear to be OK, he said. "The taxing body has the right to give out factual information.

Mary Vanek, an attorney who helped organize the petition drive that forced the $27 million bond issue to referendum, says Thompson is announcing his stance just by appearing at the meeting.

"By virtue of presenting the facts you're essentially saying, 'We need this bond issue,' Vanek said. "You can say you're not promoting it but you're out there talking about it.

"He (Thompson) says he's not going for a debate, just to present facts. But it shuts out opposition, Vanek added, saying opponents are planning their own informational session. She wrote Thompson suggesting he speak off district property and not during school hours.

Borgsmiller also warned that District 15 is bound by its ethics code, which every governmental entity is required to pass as part of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act.

District 15's states employees shall not intentionally perform any prohibited political activity during any compensated time, including soliciting votes for or against any referendum request. Thompson says he isn't soliciting votes.