Report: District 303 board president unintentionally violated ethics policy
St. Charles Unit District 303 school board President Kathy Hewell violated board policy when she circulated nominating petitions on district property, according to a report released this week.
Two residents contacted Superintendent Jason Pearson in January alleging that multiple school board members failed to comply with the ethics and gift ban policy. Attorney Stanley Eisenhammer was then appointed as an ethics adviser to look into the complaints.
The investigation determined Hewell unintentionally violated the board's rules when she obtained signatures from five fellow board members after a meeting at the administration center. Board policy prohibits district officials or employees from engaging in certain political activities on district property, Eisenhammer said in the report.
Eisenhammer called the violation "minor" and said there was no evidence of undue influence by Hewell, who is seeking her fifth 4-year term on the board. Though a punishment is unnecessary, his report says, he did recommend all board members review the ethics policy and conduct biennial in-service training.
So as not to infringe upon official board time, Hewell purposely waited until the meeting was over before asking board members to sign her candidacy papers, she said.
"My interpretation was that I really wasn't using district resources," she said. "The ethics adviser thought differently, and I understand his reasoning. I didn't mean to do anything nefarious."
The five board members who signed Hewell's petition were not in violation of the policy because their actions did not "constitute campaigning for elective office," Eisenhammer said.
The complaints, filed by Danielle Penman and Michelle Casile, also claimed that Hewell circulated a nominating petition for Vice President Nick Manheim, who is seeking a 2-year term. Hewell did seek signatures on behalf of Manheim, the report says, though the action occurred within her neighborhood and not on district property or time.
Penman had initially filed objections to Hewell's and Manheim's candidacies, claiming they wrongfully obtained signatures. The Kane County Electoral Board ruled both candidates could stay on the ballot.
"The board strives hard to follow every rule and policy," Hewell said. "I regret very much that my minor, unintentional action cast a negative light on an outstanding, productive board and distracted from doing the important work of the board."