Invoice raises more questions about Dist. 15 appointment

Updated 2/11/2011 3:32 PM

Palatine Township Elementary District 15 officials began examining what former board member Mark Bloom's resignation would mean for the spring election more than a month before he stepped down, district documents show, fueling further accusations the timing was orchestrated to keep voters from filling his seat.

An itemized invoice from board attorney Mike Loizzi's law firm shows that from Dec. 14 to 21, attorneys looked into "board member resignation and vacancy" and "board election timeline" for a total of 3.9 hours, at a cost of $923.50 to the district. The invoice was obtained Thursday by the Daily Herald.

Citing new job responsibilities, Bloom resigned Jan. 14 -- a week after the deadline to set an open election for his seat. The board instead appointed former District 15 Educational Foundation President Dave Seiffert to fill his place, a process board members Sue Quinn and Tim Millar say was rigged from the start to get an ally of board President Gerald Chapman on the board.

Besides being appointed, Seiffert is running for a 4-year seat on the District 15 board in April. If he wins, he'll vacate Bloom's seat and someone else will be appointed to the seat until the 2013 election.

If he loses, Seiffert will hold Bloom's seat until 2013.

According to Superintendent Scott Thompson, Bloom met with Chapman Dec. 14 or 15 to discuss an upcoming board meeting. There, Bloom told Chapman he was concerned his new job would conflict with his board duties and was considering resignation, Thompson said.

The superintendent said he later took it upon himself to ask board attorneys to research whether Bloom's vacated seat would be filled by election this coming April, or filled by appointment.

Only Thompson's name appears on a portion of the legal bill detailing who contacted the firm.

"At that point I wanted to be prepared how to advise the board," Thompson said Thursday.

Thompson said he later shared the results of the lawyers' research with Chapman. However, despite the electoral implications, Thompson said he cannot recall whether that conversation occurred before the Jan. 7 deadline.

Thompson said he never discussed the law firm's findings with Bloom because there had been no decision to resign.

"There's no urgency if there's no resignation," he said. "I was just doing preliminary legwork and have no business making a recommendation to (Bloom)."

When asked to confirm that Thompson did in fact tell him about the Jan. 7 deadline -- and when -- Chapman said he didn't recall a conversation taking place.

"I don't remember that," Chapman said. "Why would he? We didn't even know Mark was going to resign."

Out of town at a conference on Thursday, Bloom responded via e-mail that he didn't request the attorneys be consulted and wasn't aware of their involvement.

He said he erroneously believed the election deadline was in early December, so it didn't play a factor in his decision or its timing.

But board member Sue Quinn, a frequent Chapman critic, doesn't believe the board president didn't know about the election deadline in time to act on it.

"It is not plausible to me that Chapman had no knowledge of this, particularly because he's the board president," said Quinn, who is openly campaigning against Chapman's and member James Ekeberg's re-election. "If there's a major issue going on with the board, he knows what's going on."

Quinn said she believes Thompson has been caught in the middle of the board's debate.

Member Tim Millar, who also opposed Seiffert's appointment, said the attorney's bill has him more convinced than ever that the appointment was orchestrated.

Seiffert couldn't be reached for comment but last week defended his appointment, saying he applied because he wanted to start serving on the board as soon as possible.

Member Peggy Babcock, who supported Seiffert's appointment when the vote was held Jan. 29, said the bill raised questions in her mind, but she is satisfied with Chapman's account.

"I don't believe there was any collusion at all," she said. "This is a witch hunt."