Two Warren Twp. High board members say no to iPads and email
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As more local governments move toward providing personal tablet computers and email accounts for elected officials, two board members at Warren Township High School in Gurnee are taking a pass for now.
Liz Biondi and Catherine Campbell remain the iPad and email holdouts on the seven-member Warren District 121 board. Warren's elected officials were using the iPads before the two women were elected in April 2013.
While proponents say electronic documents increase efficiency and will save taxpayers' money in the long run, Biondi contends the $474 in annual data fees for each iPad cost more than the paper board meeting packets she receives and believes are easier to use.
She said she has another reason in declining Warren's technology.
"I have a lot of security concerns," Biondi said.
Warren board President John Anderson said school officials will continue distributing information in the manner requested by Campbell and Biondi, who frequently have been at odds with their five colleagues since last year's uncontested election. Campbell's 3,708 votes were the most of three candidates on the ballot, while Biondi captured 31 as a write-in.
"They get paper copies of everything, so they're not missing information," said Anderson, who received his iPad with other board members in July 2011.
Elected officials at several suburban governments, such as Lake Zurich Unit District 95 and the village of Grayslake, have ditched fat paper meeting packets in favor of electronic devices loaded with documents.
It's common for the elected officials to have email accounts established with the taxing bodies they represent as a way to connect with residents.
One of Illinois' foremost political experts, Kent Redfield, said Biondi and Campbell could improve communication with their peers if they used the iPads and email offered by District 121. Redfield is emeritus professor of political science at University of Illinois at Springfield.
"It's very strange," Redfield said of the women's stance, "and it certainly makes the board operate less efficiently and probably increases cost."
When discussion arose at a Nov. 19 meeting about outfitting Campbell and Biondi with the iPads, Warren board member Barb Conway said she was disappointed they were declining the technology. Conway said the iPad has allowed her to quickly pull up policies or other documents if needed during a meeting — something Campbell and Biondi can't do as part of a decision-making process.
"I think a lot of the reasons we are not on the same page is because you're not getting the same information. And if you had that information (on a tablet), you would be," Conway told Campbell and Biondi.
Campbell did not return a message seeking comment. District 121 meeting minutes from Nov. 19 state that paper copies of board information are delivered to a "designated location" for her.
Rather than using a Warren email account, the minutes say Campbell prefers that Warren Superintendent Mary Perry Bates relay "urgent matters" by calling or texting her wireless telephone. Biondi also prefers calls and text messages from Bates.
Biondi, who receives hard copies of Warren emails via the mail, said a special notation in the Nov. 19 minutes regarding how Campbell wants the board packet delivered to her was unfair because it was not discussed during the meeting. She said Campbell's board materials are left at a business that provides postal, mailbox and shipping services.
"That's part of the problem," Biondi said. "They want to point out that things are different with Catherine and me than the regulars, the veteran board members."
More than 100 spectators attended a District 121 meeting in early September, with many directing negative remarks at Biondi and Campbell during public comment time. Biondi said several extra chairs set up in the meeting room that night indicated the crowd was encouraged to attend the meeting by her opponents.
Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik attended the session and criticized Biondi and Campbell for filing complaints with the Illinois attorney general's office alleging Open Meetings Act violations by the other five District 121 board members. Biondi said she and Campbell are not being disruptive and just want to save public money.
"I represent a lot of middle-class people who are very dissatisfied with what's going on in the district," she said.
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