Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik and several other community leaders turned out en masse Tuesday night to support a majority of Warren Township High School board members who gathered for the first time since the husband of an elected official was escorted by police officers from a meeting last month after he was accused of being disruptive.
Warren District 121 board President John Anderson addressed what happened Aug. 20 before Tuesday's public comment time.
"I think we're all a little disappointed with our last meeting," Anderson told at least 100 spectators. "We pride ourselves on the fact that, generally speaking, we all like to work together and work harmoniously as much as we can while still disagreeing on things that people disagree on."
Ray Biondi, whose wife, Liz, is a Warren board member, was removed from the last meeting at Anderson's direction after he didn't immediately comply with a request to not banter with another audience member during public comment. Biondi spoke at Tuesday's meeting and complied with Anderson's request to limit his remarks to five minutes.
Kovarik was joined in the crowd by former Gurnee Mayor Richard Welton, Lake County Board member Steve Carlson of Gurnee, former Woodland Elementary District 50 board President Lawrence Gregorash, Gurnee Park District Executive Director Susie Kuruvilla and other local leaders.
In her remarks, Kovarik was critical of District 121 board members Catherine Campbell and Liz Biondi. Campbell and Biondi were not contested in the April election.
Kovarik said she's found actions by Campbell and Biondi as District 121 board members to have been "disconcerting and unacceptable for an elected official." The mayor in particular criticized Liz Biondi and Campbell for filing complaints about the Warren board with the Lake County state's attorney's and Illinois attorney general's offices.
"Meetings are being hijacked with items and minutiae not even on the agenda," Kovarik said. "The complaints to the attorney general and state's attorney office are gross misuse of taxpayer dollars to respond to issues raised by Miss Biondi and Miss Campbell."
On Aug. 20, Ray Biondi voiced concerns about Assistant Superintendent of Business Services and Operations Carol Rogers having what he said is too much financial authority without proper board oversight. He reiterated his point Tuesday, but stressed he wasn't questioning Rogers' integrity.
Biondi also took exception to the presence of a Gurnee police officer in the back of the meeting room.
"Having a police officer here tonight is an attempt to silence me," he said.
Campbell and Liz Biondi left their board seats to speak at the public comment podium. Liz Biondi disputed the need for the officer at the meeting and police presence and suggested the board may want to consider a parliamentarian -- a role she said her husband filled elsewhere in the past.
District 121 Superintendent Mary Perry-Bates later asked several staff members to stand in the audience.
She said while suggestions and criticism done in a professional manner are acceptable, they no longer should be expected to tolerate attacks ranging from reckless spending to providing a poor education to students.
Campbell and Liz Biondi said they objected to the implication they are making disparaging remarks about Warren employees.