District 15 attorney defends appointment process, timing

Updated 2/23/2011 5:21 PM

The Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board's appointment filling a vacant seat couldn't have been an intentional move to keep voters from making the call, according to board attorney Mike Loizzi.

Loizzi said that while multiple interpretations may exist due to the complexity of the relevant state law, he believes former board member Mark Bloom would have had to resign by Nov. 23, 2010 in order for his seat to be filled by voters in the April election.

"The statute is written awkwardly, complicated enough that we had to spend some time sorting this out," Loizzi said.

Confusion over the deadline led to accusations from board members Sue Quinn and Tim Millar that Bloom postponed his resignation until mid-January so the board majority could handpick his successor, Dave Seiffert, rather than let voters choose a replacement.

Those claims intensified after district documents showed Superintendent Scott Thompson first contacted Loizzi to inquire about election and appointment scenarios on Dec. 14, a month before Bloom formally offered his resignation.

In a written legal opinion, Loizzi cited a section of Illinois School Code that states an appointment must take place if the vacancy occurs with less than 868 days remaining in the term. He counted back 868 days from April 9, 2013, the day Bloom's seat would have been up for election. That, he said, establishes a Nov. 23, 2010 deadline.

The Illinois State Board of Elections interprets the statute differently, however.

Legal counsel Ken Menzel said the 868 days should be counted back from the day the new school board is sworn into place, since that's when a new term begins. The calculation is flexible, Menzel said, because most school boards -- including District 15 -- have yet to set their 2012-13 meeting schedule.

Since state statute requires school boards to be sworn in within 28 days of an election -- by May 7, 2013 in this case -- Menzel said he would count back 868 days from then.

"The 868 day standard is not the easiest thing to calculate," Menzel said. "It's a little murky because boards don't necessarily have their schedules set that far in advance."

Menzel's interpretation means the deadline to put Bloom's seat on the ballot was Dec. 21, 2010, a week after he first approached Board President Gerald Chapman to say he was considering resigning. Although that date is one day after the filing period ended for candidates to run for office, residents still could have submitted a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate for Bloom's 2-year term until Feb. 3, Menzel said.

Loizzi said that to him, any electoral implications were moot because in his mind the deadline for Bloom's seat to be included on the ballot had already passed.