Tactics irk some in District 15 campaign

Updated 3/30/2011 6:10 PM
  • Gerald Chapman

    Gerald Chapman

  • James Ekeberg

    James Ekeberg

  • Dave Seiffert

    Dave Seiffert

  • Scott Herr

    Scott Herr

  • Gerard Iannuzzelli

    Gerard Iannuzzelli

  • Manjula Sriram

    Manjula Sriram

Freedom of Information Act requests, blogs or a volunteer phone drive are among the tactics Palatine Township Elementary District 15 candidates -- along with their supporters -- are using to sway voters ahead of Tuesday's election.

In some cases, the strategies are not sitting well with candidates and other school board members.

One of the latest comes from the Palatine Township Democrats, which has organized volunteers to call registered Democrats and urge them to vote for incumbents Gerald Chapman, James Ekeberg and Dave Seiffert in the nonpartisan race.

Committeewoman Sue Walton said the school board races have far-reaching implications, and believes the District 15 incumbents are more moderate and have the students' best interests at heart.

Concerned with low voter turnout, Walton said volunteers provide information on early voting and polling locations. Then, they give the organization's recommendations for District 15 and a few other races, including the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board.

Volunteers are using their personal cell phones and the organization Skype account to make the calls from the group's office, Walton said. Teachers unions are in no way involved, she added, and volunteers aren't instructed to touch on specific issues, though they're free to do so.

Walton said challengers Scott Herr, Gerard Iannuzzelli and Manjula Sriram represent a parent's point of view with honest compassion, but lack experience to maintain standards during a time of budget cuts.

Sitting board member Sue Quinn disagrees, and has been outspoken about her support for the challengers through a series of e-mails in recent months.

Though Quinn uses her personal e-mail account, she signs her letters stating her title as a board member. That's led some to claim she's violating District 15 board policy, which states members can't solicit votes on behalf of any political organization or candidate.

Quinn doesn't think she's violating any policies, and said the e-mails are necessary because debate is often stifled at board meetings.

"I didn't check my First Amendment rights at the door when I became an elected official," Quinn said. "The public has a hard enough time as it is understanding what's going on ... without putting muzzles on school board members."

Quinn also links to articles and blog postings written by the challengers, and lauds them for providing information through an interactive format that allows for a dialogue.

Another recent campaign tactic -- one that sitting board member Rich Bokor isn't pleased with -- has been the circulation of personal e-mails showing his political preferences.

District 15 parent Jennifer Mondy, who runs the website Spotlight on the Board and openly backs the challengers, posted two Bokor e-mails she obtained through a Freedom of Information request for all election-related e-mails to and from people with a d211.org e-mail address.

Bokor, a retired Fremd High School teacher, e-mailed three District 211 employees in February about a meet-and-greet fundraiser he was organizing on behalf of Chapman and Ekeberg.

In them, he writes there's a "strong right-wing push to focus on anti-teacher and anti-union candidates" and that Chapman and Ekeberg truly care about public education.

Bokor said that posting his personal e-mails are a tactic he would never use.

"I prefer to run a campaign of integrity and not constant negativity," he said. "Do it in a productive way and not a destructive way."