Retired Lake County Circuit Judge Henry Tonigan III has been selected to lead an internal investigation about ethics complaints filed against officials at Grayslake Elementary District 46.
Superintendent Ellen Correll and some current and former school board members are the focus of the latest internal probe over their use of email before the April 5 election.
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Lake County tea party founder Lennie Jarratt of Round Lake Beach lodged the ethics complaints in question, alleging the emails he received from Freedom of Information Act requests show improper political activity by the District 46 officials.
District 46 board members at a recent meeting voted 4-1 in favor of Tonigan heading the investigation of Jarratt's complaints. Lawyer Richard Majka -- former assistant superintendent for employee relations and legal services at Elgin Area School District U-46 -- also was up for the job.
Board President Ray Millington said Tonigan's broad view of the law was preferable to Majka's education industry knowledge.
"I felt that maybe there would be a little bit of bias that would be possible, based on his past (school) background," Millington said of Majka.
Although District 46 board member Susan Facklam voted for Tonigan's hiring, she said during a meeting last week that Majka would have been a good choice.
"I'm actually impressed by the idea he (Majka) has school experience," Facklam said. Last month, she was cleared of any ethics violations from complaints that included a claim she violated board policy on March 13 by having District 46's Parent Teacher Organization email invitations for one of her campaign events.
Tonigan was appointed as a Lake County associate judge in 1983 and elevated to circuit judge in 1991. He retired in 2007.
On Tuesday, Tonigan said he just received "a pile of stuff" from District 46. He said he couldn't estimate how long the internal probe will take.
"This is a limited assignment," Tonigan said.
Libertyville lawyer Richard Mittelman recently led two similar internal ethics complaint investigations at District 46. The school board voted against forwarding his reports to Lake County prosecutors.
Correll confirmed District 46 will pay $250 an hour to Tonigan. She said Tuesday that Mittelman to date has been paid $5,029 at a rate of $210 per hour.
Tonigan and Thomas McQueen have served as special prosecutors in a case against McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi. A dispute over the special prosecutors' $312,000 in legal fees charged so far to McHenry County has landed in an Illinois appellate court.
In March, a judge cleared Bianchi halfway through a trial on charges he and his personal secretary conspired to use county resources to bolster his re-election campaign. Bianchi still faces three felony misconduct charges that his defense lawyer contends should be dropped by Tonigan and McQueen.