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posted: 9/11/2012 5:00 AM

Editorial: Board member complaint demands answers

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For several years, Grayslake Elementary District 46 school board member Michael Carbone has fancied himself as a government watchdog.

He has called out colleagues and administrators on a variety of issues, including the hiring of a former board member as a paid consultant and the husband of a then-sitting board president landing a school maintenance job.

We have applauded those efforts to force transparency on District 46. However, Carbone now finds himself at the center of troubling allegations that paint a picture of an elected board member threatening and bullying employees.

They raise questions that demand answers.

We echo the district's call for an investigation into the matter and urge a full report of the findings be released to the public and discussed by the board, along with any appropriate action.

The allegations stem from an internal complaint filed by two District 46 employees who said they felt "threatened and worried" during an encounter with Carbone at an Aug. 7 school registration event. During that event, Carbone refused to pay registration fees for his daughter, refused to sign a promissory note and told the employees they were "opening up for a lawsuit" if he didn't receive the registration packet, according to the complaint.

Carbone has said he believes the complaint was spurred by his board foes seeking "retribution." He also contends the school board doesn't have a registration policy.

In response, the District 46 school board agreed last week to turn over the complaint to its attorney to be investigated through its private grievance process.

If it is determined the allegations are trumped up or overblown, the district must set the record straight. Carbone deserves to have his name cleared. However, if the complaint is accurate, it reflects the type of behavior that cannot be tolerated from a school board member. Board members must pay their registration fees and other costs just like everyone else. Board members can't be allowed to intimidate district employees and bully their way to special consideration.

That's just the way it has to be.

As for the investigative process, the board has chosen the private procedure. President Ray Millington suggested that route, saying it will be more orderly and will provide the board with a full understanding of the facts while respecting the privacy of everyone involved.

Carbone and another board member, Kip Evans, want the examination to be public, and they have a point. We understand the factors that might speak for a private investigation. However, this complaint involves an elected official, which makes it a public matter that would be best managed in full public view.

Since the board is going with the private procedure, we insist, and District 46 residents should insist, the finished report be open to a full public discussion.

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