During a closed session school board meeting a little more than two years ago, a pair LaGrange District 102 school board members accused fellow board member Ed Campbell acting unethically and having a conflict of interest by using his position on the school board and district COVID-19 testing data to promote a private company Campbell created to do COVID testing for other school districts.
But, during the meeting, and later in a 10-page report, the school board’s lawyer concluded that Campbell had done nothing wrong and did not have a conflict of interest.
The District 102 school board recently voted to release the audio of the closed session meeting from April 29, 2021 after the Illinois Attorney General’s office concluded, following a complaint was filed by a private citizen, that the discussion was not exempt from disclosure.
Campbell had played a key role, which he was not compensated for, in creating District 102’s COVID-19 testing program and lab during the late summer of 2020. Soon after getting the District 102 lab up and running, Campbell, along with a few friends, formed his own private company, Safeguard Surveillance, to do the same sort of testing for other school districts.
Bessie Boyd and Brian Anderson, neither of whom are still on the District 102 school board, expressed their concerns in the April 29, 2021 meeting after Boyd had brought up the matter publicly during the March 18, 2021 school board meeting.
Boyd and Anderson thought that Campbell was trading on his position as a District 102 school board member and using what was supposed to be confidential data to promote his private company in presentations he was making with other school boards, seeking contracts for his new company.
“At least in my mind he clearly connects his board member position with that company,” Anderson said in 2021. “He continues to connect himself with the board, with Safeguard, with D102 lab and then the data.”
In the March 18 open meeting, Campbell defended himself, saying that Boyd raised the issue shortly after a contentious 4-3 vote not to return to full-day, in-person school. Boyd and Anderson were on the losing side of that vote and Campbell was on the winning side.
But in the closed session on April 29, 2021 Boyd denied that her concerns were personal in nature.
“It’s nothing personal, but it’s all about the principle and how it looks, to not just the district, but to the community,” Boyd said.
Campbell pointed out that he just used aggregate, publicly available District 102 data.
“You can say that I was using the data, but the reality is that the publicly available data made people interested in cloning what we created here,” Campbell said.
Anderson told Campbell he didn’t have any problem with Campbell creating a company, but felt that Campbell should have resigned from the school board if it was going to lead to a company that did COVID testing.
“That would have been, I think, a clean separation,” Anderson said.
After Boyd made her public remarks about what she considered unethical behavior by Campbell at the March 18, 2021 meeting, she was interviewed by a special agent of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General and an FBI agent on April 23, 2021. The school district’s attorney, Darcy Kriha, also attended the meeting, acting as Boyd’s counsel.
The agent from the Department of Education had received an allegation from a staff member of the Illinois State Board of Education that Campbell received more than $700,000 in public funds to kickstart his initial research and development on COVID-19 surveillance testing.
But the charge was never substantiated and the FBI, the Department of Education and Kriha concluded that Campbell had done nothing wrong.
“I have found no evidence of wrongdoing or other concern that would warrant further investigation,” Kriha wrote in her report.
Anderson resigned from the District 102 school board a little more than a month after Kriha submitted her report to the school board exonerating Campbell. Boyd was defeated last April when she ran for a second term on the school board, finishing fifth in a six-candidate race for four seats on the school board.
Some friends of Campbell actively encouraged people not to vote for Boyd, with one saying on social media that Boyd threw Campbell under the bus.
Campbell, a Brookfield resident and a professor of immunology at Loyola Medical Center, is now the president of the District 102 school board, having been unanimously elected to that position this past May when three new school board members were seated.