By Bob Skolnik
Despite the misgivings of some board members, the Lyons School District 103 Board of Education voted 4 to 1 on May 14 to rehire a politically connected auditing firm for another year at a price of $36,000.
Board member Joanne Schaeffer cast the only vote against hiring GW & Associates, which was first hired by the district in the fall of 2016 when the school board was controlled by members elected with the help of Lyons Village President Christopher Getty.
"I voted against them when they were hired, because they're politically connected," Schaeffer said.
GW & Associates was founded by David Gonzalez, the mayor of Chicago Heights. The firm has made $12,300 in political contributions dating back to 2015 according to state records. Some of that money went to the political funds of Getty and to the campaign fund of part-time District 103 Assistant Superintendent Kyle Hastings, who also serves as the mayor of Orland Hills.
GW & Associates has contributed $1,000 to Citizens for Christopher Getty since it was hired by District 103. The firm also does auditing work for the village of Lyons. GW & Associates has also donated $500 to Getty's United Citizens Party since 2016. GW & Associates has contributed $1,200 to Citizens for Kyle Hastings since 2015.
During the public comment portion of Monday's school board meeting Earl Johnson, the husband of school board member Shannon Johnson, implored the board not to rehire the firm, pointing to a 2016 story by the Better Government Association and Chicago Sun-Times, which detailed the political connections of the firm.
But Shannon Johnson ultimately voted to rehire GW & Associates after saying she did not like having the firm working for District 103.
"I just think that we have to hold our district to a moral standard, and I don't think this company fits that moral standard," Shannon Johnson said. "I think ethics are just as important as doing a good job."
After board members met in closed session, Johnson ultimately voted to rehire GW & Associates for one more year, saying that it was too late to hire a new firm to do this year's audit.
"I know that we need the audit done in time and that's what's important," Johnson said after the meeting. "But it doesn't mean we will have the same auditing firm [next year]."
Board President Marge Hubacek also voted to rehire GW & Associates after hearing from Business Manager Sherry Whitaker and Accounts Payable Clerk Loretta Kray that the firm did competent and timely work for the district.
"The auditors did the job that auditors do," Whitaker said at Monday's school board meeting in response to a question from Hubacek. "They got the audit in on time. I didn't see anything that was weird."
Hubacek said it was too late to look for a new auditing firm to do this year's audit.
"Do I think they were brought in politically, and do I think they have a connection? Yes," said Hubacek. "But our audit is due now, there were no negatives, they did an OK job."