The Illinois Attorney General was noncommittal in its answer to our question about whether the Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 Board of Education violated the Open Meetings Act when it approved a raft of new contracts for administrators and an amendment to Superintendent Carol Baker’s contract.
Officially, the attorney general’s public access counselor said it was “unable to conclude” whether the lame-duck school board failed in its duty to inform the public about what it was about to do on April 13, when it hastily approved the contracts before newly elected board members were sworn in and flipped the board majority.
Part of the problem in making a decision, according to the attorney general, is that there apparently was no recording of the meeting to determine exactly what anyone said. That in this day and age a public body isn’t recording its proceedings is an affront to the public.
In any case, the board decided to rescind the contracts and yesterday met to reconsider all of them, save for Baker’s.
That contract amendment was especially galling to the incoming board members and new majority, because it not only extended Baker’s deal for two more years, it gave her a greater-than-required raise, provided her and her family with free health insurance for the next decade and removed a provision that called for Baker to pay for the cost of searching for her replacement if she decided to leave the district before her contract was up.
Although language in the contract amendment suggested that Baker had met performance goals set out by the board, it turns out that Baker’s performance had never been reviewed formally by the board.
The school board has now set a date for that evaluation, after which there may be reason to amend Baker’s contract. But regardless of the attorney general’s non-opinion regarding the open meetings question, the board majority felt secure in tossing out Baker’s contract amendment because it failed to follow protocols laid out by the board in her original deal.
There was some concern by former board President Michael Bennett that the school board might look as if it were being led around by its new legal counsel, which provided the rationale for ditching Baker’s deal.
That’s rich, coming from the president of a board who had been taking orders from Lyons Village Hall since the day he was sworn in – from hiring the village’s law firm as its legal counsel to hiring one of that law firm’s municipal clients as interim superintendent (and then as assistant superintendent), to hiring one of the village president’s pals as maintenance director.
And there’s more where that came from. The board’s action last week was a rational response to the past two years. And not a moment too soon.