The Cook County State’s Attorney office apparently has launched an investigation surrounding former Riverside Elementary School District 96 Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson.
At a special meeting July 7 the District 96 school board voted 5 to 0 to waive the attorney-client privilege with its former law firm, Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, so that the law firm can respond to a grand jury subpoena that will be sent to the law firm. The school board reviewed a draft of the subpoena in closed session before its vote.
The motion passed by the school board also asks the law firm to respond fully “to questions asked, and information requested, by any Cook County State’s Attorney and/or the Cook County State’s Attorney investigator named in the Notice of Disclosure filed with the Chief Judge’s Office, so long as such questions and information are within the scope and in furtherance of the purposes of the subpoena.”
Before the vote, school board Vice President Mary Rose Mangia, who was presiding over the meeting in the absence of board president Jeff Miller, read a prepared statement.
“The Board of Education and its current attorneys have been cooperating with representatives of the Cook County State’s Attorney in their investigation of spending by, and the compensation of, a former district employee,” Mangia said. “A grand jury subpoena is expected to be issued to the board’s former attorneys, Scariano, Himes and Petrarca and the state’s attorney has requested that the Board of Education waive its attorney client privilege so that the Scariano law firm may provide information to the state’s attorney in connection with the investigation of the former employee.”
Mangia also said that because the matter involved pending litigation and a grand jury investigation, school board members could not provide any additional detail.
Although his name was not mentioned at the meeting it’s clear that the former district employee being investigated is Lamberson. Last year, the school board revealed that Lamberson appeared to have been paid more than his contract called for during his last couple of years as a district employee. Lamberson has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
An examination of Lamberson’s use of the district credit card also raised red flags about whether he occasionally used the card for his own purchases. The board also was concerned that Lamberson was reimbursed for mileage while he was also receiving a monthly allowance for car and transportation expenses.
For about a year the school board and Lamberson have been negotiating, through their respective attorneys, to settle the alleged overcompensation issue. For months word was that a deal had been reached, but no formal agreement has been ratified. The new investigation may be a factor in the delay.
Lamberson was the superintendent of District 96 from 2005 until 2013. By the end of his time at District 96, he was one of the highest-paid school superintendents in the state. As a retiree, according to the Better Government Agency’s database, Lamberson was paid a public pension of $262,516 in 2014.
After leaving District 96 in 2013, Lamberson worked as a school superintendent in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. He reportedly left that job June 30 to retire to Minnesota. Attempts by the Landmark to reach Lamberson by email were unsuccessful.
Multiple sources have told the Landmark that school board member Rachel Marrello contacted the state’s attorney office and brought the Lamberson matter to their attention last year.
Marrello did not respond to a phone call or an email asking her to comment about whether she talked to anyone in the state’s attorney office about the Lamberson situation.
Steve Campbell, a spokesman for the Cook County State’s Attorney said Thursday that he could not comment at this time about whether his office is investigating Lamberson.