By Bob Uphues
Four candidates elected earlier this month to the Lyons-Brookfield District 103 school board are claiming they already have been sworn into office and have called for a special meeting of the school board on Thursday, April 30.
Patrick Patt, co-interim superintendent of District 103, said he received the news Tuesday afternoon from Kyle Leonard, the administrative assistant to Lyons Village President Christopher Getty.
According to Patt, Leonard walked into the district office, handed him a meeting agenda and said, "Here, this is what you need to do."
"This was a command, basically," said Patt. "You will post this."
The agenda calls for the board to be reorganized and includes action items calling for the termination of the district's law firm, Robbins Schwartz, and the termination of co-interim superintendents Patt and Griff Powell, who only started work April 22.
In addition, the agenda calls for the hiring of the firm Odelson and Sterk to be the school district's legal counsel and the hiring of Kyle Hastings as interim superintendent. The agenda also changes the school board meeting dates to the second and fourth Thursday of each month.
The special meeting was called by Michael Bennett, Jorge Torres, Katie Broderick and Coleen Shipbaugh, who were elected as part of slate backed by Getty on April 7 and claim to have been sworn into office on Tuesday.
Leonard delivered copies of signed oaths of office from all four candidates to Patt on Tuesday. The documents are notarized by Burt Odelson, whose firm serves as legal counsel for the village of Lyons. It is unknown who administered the oath of office or where the swearing-in took place.
Section 10 of the Illinois School Code states that "each school board member, before taking his or her seat on the board, shall take an oath of office, administered as determined by the board."
District 103's board policy for swearing in new board members states that "the board secretary will administer the oath in an open board meeting."
That meeting, which was scheduled to take place on Monday, May 4, was posted earlier in the day on Tuesday, according to Patt.
Also on Tuesday, Bennett filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain financial and school board meeting documents, a list of all employees of the district hired since January 2015 and the contracts of Patt, Powell and George Washington Middle School Principal Paul Blueher, who was hired by the school board on April 27.
Attempts by the Landmark to reach Getty, Leonard, Odelson and Bennett were unsuccessful.
None of the other members of the school board were notified that the new candidates were attempting to get sworn in prior to the May 4 board reorganization meeting. School board President Sharon Anderson said she found out about the April 30 special meeting when she found the notice taped to the mailbox at her home Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, it's unclear whether there will be a meeting at all on April 30, because Patt, through the school district's law firm, issued a statement Wednesday calling Tuesday's actions invalid.
"The oaths of office submitted by the board members-elect who signed the purported call [for a special meeting] were not administered at an open, public meeting," Patt said in the statement. "Therefore, the signers have not yet been seated as board members in accordance with the provisions on Section 10-16.5 of the School Code and Board Policy 2:80, and do not have the authority to call a special meeting of the board of education at this time."
Patt told the Landmark Wednesday morning that, in any event, April 29 would be his last day as interim superintendent in District 103. Powell, who has only worked one day so far since being hired, is also expected to walk away.
"Griff and I knew this wasn't going to last long," Patt said. "In the 40 years Griff and I have been doing this, we have never seen anything like this."
Patt refused to post the special meeting agenda handed to him by Leonard. At about 5:40 p.m., Leonard taped two copies of the agenda to a window and glass door outside the district office's front door.
"When I went out to his car after he did it, I said, 'Kyle, you know, we're hearing this could be a violation of the Open Meetings Act.'
"And that's when he rolled the window up on me."