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updated: 10/4/2011 2:13 PM

Lake County tea party founder sues Grayslake D46

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  • Linwood "Lennie" Jarratt

    Linwood "Lennie" Jarratt

  • Gerald Dietz

    Gerald Dietz

  • Video: Champion email chatter


Lake County tea party founder Linwood "Lennie" Jarratt is seeking a court order forcing Grayslake Elementary District 46 to make public certain emails he contends could show improper political activity by school officials.

Attorney Gerald Dietz filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jarratt in Lake County circuit court last week. Dietz intends to run in the Republican primary for Lake County court clerk.

District 46 officials declined to respond to the latest salvo by Jarratt, who often criticizes them during public comment time at meetings.

"I have no comment on pending litigation," District 46 board President Ray Millington said Monday.

Jarratt contends District 46 violated the Illinois Freedom of Information Act by denying an April 8 request for any and all email correspondence over two months between Superintendent Ellen Correll, seven board members, five employees and three officials at Grayslake and North Chicago high schools.

He's filed various complaints this year, saying Correll, former school board president Mary Garcia and others engaged in prohibited political activities before the April 5 election. Independent investigators have been hired to explore the complaints.

District 46 board members agreed with attorney Richard Mittelman's recommendation to issue a letter of reprimand to Correll that resulted from one complaint about improper email use.

In the suit filed Sept. 27, Jarratt wants a judge to issue an injunction and order District 46 to promptly produce all records he seeks. The Round Lake Beach resident also asks that District 46 be fined $2,500 to $5,000 for each FOIA violation.

Jarratt wants emails from Feb. 1 to April 7 in an effort to obtain information that could assist an investigation of an ethics complaint he lodged against District 46 officials, the lawsuit states.

He contends the documents would bolster his case about improper political activity on District 46's email system, which retired Lake County Circuit Judge Henry Tonigan III is investigating. Jarratt filed the ethics complaint May 18.

Jarratt said he was left with no choice but to sue.

"Linwood Jarratt and the public have been denied access to at least 79 documents, but possibly several hundred documents," according to the suit.

State law prohibits public resources from being used for political activities.

In his complaint, Jarratt notes Northbrook/Glenview Elementary District 30 fulfilled a March 23 public-records request similar to what he submitted to District 46.

The lawsuit states he received 87 emails between accounts at District 30 and District 46. Garcia was up for re-election when Jarratt sent his FOIA to District 30, where she's a teacher.

An agenda item for Wednesday's District 46 board meeting states approval will be sought to release emails sent from there to District 30 so Tonigan can review the documents. District 46 attorney Kevin Gordon, who would release the emails, didn't return a call seeking comment.

Garcia was accused of sending campaign-related emails in a separate complaint Jarratt filed with District 30. In May, District 30 officials asked the Cook County state's attorney's office to investigate if Garcia engaged in prohibited political activities on work email.

District 30 Superintendent Edward Tivador confirmed Monday that Cook County prosecutors have decided against pursuing the Garcia case. Garcia did not retain her District 46 board seat in the election.