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updated: 6/15/2012 6:33 PM

Grayslake D46 ordered to post closed-door chatter

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  • Shannon Smigielski

      Shannon Smigielski

 
 

Grayslake Elementary District 46 has posted on its website transcripts of two closed-door sessions held by board members the Lake County state's attorney's office ruled violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

Assistant State's Attorney Janelle Christensen said Friday she reviewed tape recordings and transcripts of the executive sessions, which pertained to the hiring of former District 46 board member Michael Linder as an independent contractor. The discussions occurred Oct. 20 and 27, 2010.

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Linder's $75,000 contract as a facilities engineering consultant was approved in a public board vote in February 2011. He was on the board until he resigned in November 2010, but didn't participate in the closed sessions at issue. Christensen said while boards may legally discuss personnel issues about official government employees or potential hires in private under the Open Meetings Act, such is not the case for consultants or independent contractors. She said that's why she found the District 46 board violated the Open Meetings Act by discussing Linder in closed sessions.

As part of a resolution, said Christensen, District 46 posted transcripts of the previously private chatter about Linder on its website June 13 and must leave it up for 60 days. She said she blacked out some material in the transcripts from Oct. 20 and 27, 2010, because the closed-door conversations were allowed under the Open Meetings Act.

In addition, said Christensen, she plans to hold a training session for the District 46 officials regarding the Open Meetings Act.

Christensen credited District 46 in assisting her investigation, which was launched by a complaint board member Shannon Smigielski filed with prosecutors March 9.

"They did cooperate with me," she said. "They didn't force me to file a lawsuit to get the transcripts."

District 46 Superintendent Ellen Correll said Christensen's directions have been followed and the officials await a training date. Board President Ray Millington declined to comment.

Elected to the board in 2011, Smigielski said she listened to the closed-door recordings initially because she had questions about Linder's contract length earlier this year. She said she went to Lake County prosecutors when she believed "a whole new can of worms became apparent" with the tapes.

Smigielski said she was satisfied the state's attorney's office ordered a posting of the executive session minutes that were deemed to have violated the Open Meetings Act.

"This is exactly what I was seeking," Smigielski said. "We would learn how to hold these meetings legally and the public would be privy to the meetings that should have been held publicly to begin with."

Last month, Linder quit as the engineering consultant with no public explanation. His $75,000 deal was set to expire March 23, 2013.

Concern among some board members arose in February after it was discovered Linder signed a two-year contract and not what was believed to be a one-year deal.

Linder, elected to the school board in 2007, cited schedule changes when he resigned that post in November 2010. He is retired from a career of managing large corporate operations. His consulting in District 46 included overseeing continuing projects districtwide and a 20-year facilities plan, and reviewing and monitoring a budget.

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