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April 18, 2024

Cullen’s livin’ large in Venice!

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On October 5, 2014

Madison Co. – (ECWd) –

In the last 4 years we have probably looked at every type of public body there is. During that time it has become very clear that the #1 abuser of public funds are School District Superintendents. Some may recall the exposed baggage that brought down Roger Eddy, former Superintendent of Hutsonville, as well as former State Representative. (Click here for those articles) I guess some things never change because now we have yet another school superintendent seeking the office of State Representative.

The Venice Elementary School district is under the leadership, if you can call it that, of Cullen L. Cullen. As superintendent of the school district, he is currently honored with the fact, according to the 2013 Illinois Standards Achievement Test, that only about 1 in 10 Venice students meet or exceed state standards. Yes, he has all kinds of excuses and spin as to why these facts are true (Click here for the reported information from BND),  but let’s look at the school district itself.

It’s one Elementary School! With 125 students, a principal and 8 teachers!  A school in which the kids are at their prime for learning the most important skills when it comes to education. I could understand such a low score for troubled area high schools, but an elementary school? If his leadership can’t help the most impressionable aged and vulnerable kids we have, can we really expect any real leadership out of this guy as a State Representative?

For about 2 months we have looked into the records of the actions of this guy and let’s just say we see enough problems that he should not only resign from his Superintendent’s job, but like Roger Eddy, he should resign from the race for State Representative. It might also not be a bad idea for him to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Cullen, like so many others, have relied upon the teachings of organizations like the Illinois Association of School Boards, which happens to be lead by none other than the disgraced Roger Eddy (Click here for the history on Eddy).  Our current Kansas School District terminated that relationship years ago and saved thousands. You would think a financially troubled school would do the same, but by all indications they doubled down and broke the law, by his own admission!

Most of our readers know, if the law doesn’t permit it you can’t do it. Dillon’s Rule! When people in a position of leadership fail to lead it’s evident through the most basic review. In the Case of Venice School District, Cullen made a claim that “While I have been superintendent, the school district regained its state recognition, enrollment has doubled, the district paid all of its debt down to zero, and the financial oversight panel has been dissolved by the State Board of Education,” (Click here for BND story with that quote)

Financial oversight panel?

He fails to mention that it was that very oversight panel that was in control of the financial matters, and yet he spins their accomplishments to be his own. This is a person who is out of touch with reality!

With that in mind, he admits in the story by BDN that food expenditures are “typically” for things like school board meetings, as one of his excuses for the illegal spending. What does he mean by typically? Are there other food expenditures that are not typical? What he fails to realize is the board members are to serve without compensation and no where in the law does it permit the expenditure for food for meetings of those boards. But please don’t take my word for it! I challenge him to prove us wrong!

Nothing in the School Code (Illinois state statutes) authorizes the expenditure of public money to feed themselves. More importantly, such an act, spending public money for private purpose, violates our Illinois Constitution, Article VIII section 1, (a), (b) and such a violation is considered Official Misconduct, which is a felony in this state!

(a) Public funds, property or credit shall be used only for public purposes.
(b) The State, units of local government and school
districts shall incur obligations for payment or make
payments from public funds only as authorized by law or

So Mr. Cullen, please show us where in the law you can spend money for feeding board members at their meetings? Many justify this expense because they are not to be compensated and it’s a way of rewarding them for serving. Sorry, that is an excuse to break the law and is in fact a form of compensation.  Has the board members and Cullen reported the meals in kind to the internal revenue service?

But let’s look at what Cullen failed to address in his recent attempted justification of taxpayer funds.  Shogun Japanese Steak House, Pheasant Run Resort (in St. Charles, IL, 300 miles away from Venice, IL), multiple credit card late fees, interest charges and plenty more. You don’t need to be a CPA to see a major problem with the spending! (Click here to review a years worth of credit card expenditures). 

When the leadership sees no problem with the illegal spending of money, it’s an indicator of their lack of ability to manage our tax dollars. So there is no confusion on some of these illegal expenditures, there is no authority in the law for a Superintendent to not pay their bills on time and incur late fees, nor is there any language in the law that allows them to incur interest charges on credit cards. To our knowledge, there is no “law or ordinance” authorizing Cullen, or the Venice School Board, to make any of these payments (see Illinois Constitution, Art. VIII, Section 1 (b)).

And for his claim that the meals were for kids and others, hogwash! Multiple charges are for amounts that clearly indicate one person feeding themselves. If it wasn’t Cullen, we do know it was Cullen who failed to put a stop to it! Another sign of ineptness from Cullen.

One particular quote from the BDN article raises serious concern, as if we have not exposed enough. Is Mr. Cullen a liar or just stupid? Either way the answer is very disturbing.

“Cullen said school boards are required to attend conferences and attend training”

That is a statement I believe he is going to wish he could stuff back in his mouth because the word Conference is not in the Illinois School Code, anywhere.  That being the case, how on earth is it a “requirement” to attend conferences?  Its not! The so-called “requirement” he alludes to, in an effort to minimize the outrageous spending on conferences, is the 4 hours of training newly elected board members are required to have.

(105 ILCS 5/10-16a)
Sec. 10-16a. School board member’s leadership training.”shall complete a minimum of 4 hours of professional development leadership training covering topics in education and labor law, financial oversight and accountability, and fiduciary responsibilities of a school board member.”

Sadly, while the kids are the one’s suffering, it’s clear Cullen and his School Board are doing quite well on the taxpayer dime.

Another very serious point of concern with this guys’ mental capacity are the types of books he is purchasing for the Venice kids. We all know the story of the Three Little Pigs, dating back to 1840. A fairy tale that was never meant to carry a message beyond entertainment.

How many of you know of the “True Story of the Three Little Pigs” ? A book that was honored by the American Library Association, which happens to be the same group that is defending peoples rights to access child porn on public computers in Orland Park, Illinois.  Venice School district under the leadership of Cullen purchased this book for their kids through one of many on-line purchases. (Click here for those receipts)

What is concerning with this book is the message it sends! A message of entitlement. A message of, hey, its just sitting there so I can take it! A message of no accountability. It’s a book used as part of the Social Justice movement.  Does anyone think its OK to teach our children that if you talk negative about my granny I have the right to try and tear your house down? Don’t think for a second this book doesn’t have an agenda!

So here we are looking at a School Superintendent that wants to become a State Representative. We see all the stuff he justifies which we all know is wrong. But what does he admit to and is that a key in this whole election for this guy? I think it is!

Quote from Cullen in the BDN story – “Was it the best expenditure? Perhaps not. But as a board, that’s how they decided to do their training.”

“Perhaps not” ?

So he acknowledges the expenditures were not the best and then blames the board? This guy supposedly has a Phd. in Education. Would it be too far fetched to assume that the School Board looks to Cullen (as a supposed expert) to advise them on which books to buy? Interestingly while reviewing the minutes there was not one word from Mr. Cullen pointing out such expenditures were not the best. No, instead he was silent. I don’t think we need people in office that aren’t man enough to speak up when they know something is wrong.

And for me, the final straw is when he again has no problem with people spending tax payer money on himself. He participated in a $1,200.00 tax payer funded “going away party” for himself after leaving a previous state position working at the Regional Superintendents office.

OK, two more straws!

Venice School District, under the failed leadership of Cullen L. Cullen has allowed the issuance of six, yes six cell phones in a school of less than 200 kids. Can anyone tell us why on earth they need to spend money on cell phones, let alone 6 of them? And we are not talking some inexpensive cell phone bill either. We are talking bills over $500 in a single month but that’s not even the most concerning matter with these cell phone bills.

They redacted 5 of the numbers on the statements. Redactions that are not allowed by law because it’s an expense paid for by the taxpayer (See Illinois Constitution, Art. VIII, Sec. 1(c)).  Why would they redact those numbers? Who else has been issued a cell phone that they don’t want us to know about? Why else redact the public record? (Click here for cell phone statements)

These are the other numbers! If you are familiar with them please let us know who these people are as it’s clear they didn’t want them shared, but then they have never dealt with Illinois Leaks!

• 618-406-5852
• 618-420-9770
• 618-420-9772
• 618-420-9773
• 618-420-9774

Last but by all means not least, this so called Phd. can’t even get it right when it comes to compliance with the Open Meetings Act, something we know  just a little bit about!   The Policy for public comment under this guy’s direction requires the public, you know, the people whom he works for, to submit a “request for participation” to him prior to the meeting day.  (Click here to read the illegal policy)


The OMA statute as well as case law is very clear on this.  Requiring the people to submit a request to speak to their public officials is outside the scope of the law and a violation of the law, which in this case constitutes a Class C Misdemeanor.  Maybe we should go attend the next school board meeting and see if they want to press this issue?

So to wrap up this sad story, a failing school under the helm of Cullen L. Cullen, has spent money in ways that were not in the best interest of the children and the taxpayers and by Cullen’s own admission, not the best use of the money. A man who has lied during the justification of the outrageous spending and he himself is a recipient of tax payer funded parties. A man that racks up hundreds of dollars in monthly cell phone bills on the backs of a poor community. A man that can’t even follow the most basic of laws pertaining to the public’s right to address their elected officials.  Cullen’s livin’ large in Venice! A man that is clearly out of touch with the reality facing the vast majority of the law abiding people in this state.

And this guy wants to be a Legislator? Oh my are we in trouble!




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  • Crusty old dude.
    Posted at 08:50h, 06 October

    I don’t know this Cullen guy, or even where Venice is. I can’t stand the fact that he, like most politicians are not honoring their fiduciary duty to the taxpayers. I applaud you for pointing out the overt violations of the law, and bringing to light the abuses of taxpayer dollars. But the rant over the three little pigs makes you sound stupid when you go off on crap like that. This would have been a well written piece without it, Why do you feel like you must destroy even the smallest things that you do not agree with. My Mom told me the story of the Three little Pigs, are you calling my Mom a crazy radical loon with a entitlement agenda? Yes it is a fairy tail but a library is filled with books that are not fiction. It may help a very young child to see something he recognizes as a story he/she heard from home and read it for the words, Not because a bunch of old dudes see a hidden dastardly agenda in it. You are becoming so negative about everything that I can barely read the articles any more. There is a difference between exposing the truth, and feeding your agenda. You say the truth has no agenda, you are completely correct, it does not. But how you choose to portray the truth does. Illinois Leaks has an agenda, and your articles while filled with facts, are used to further YOUR agenda. For example. I am a professional, I must meet State rules for Continuing Education Units. (CEU) I attend conferences that contain approved trainings that allow me to acquire my CEUs at a much discounted price than if I went to each on it’s own. This is a cost saving for me as it is for the government if used properly. In your article you condemn the conferences outright, as them not being trainings. Just because the word conference is not specifically mentioned in the law. Trust me, sitting all day in a large conference room listening to instructors is no fun. Can’t something be two things at once? You showed either your ignorance in what happens at conferences, or it did not fit into your agenda to note that conferences are a source of training units to meet State requirements. If you are truly journalists who are seeking the truth, why don’t you go to these conferences and see what the people are doing at them. If they are partying and abusing the system then expose them. If they are sitting in a conference room learning new ways to do something then credit them. It is very easy to look at a sterile law book and look for ways to say someone is breaking the letter of the law. But use common sense when applying it. You would hate if the Police went by the letter of the law when applying the law book wouldn’t you. Imagine a ticket for 1 MPH over the speed limit. No excuses for crossing the fog line, no quarter for that brake light that is malfunctioning. Tickets for everything in the law book. If you want the letter of the law followed then please let the officer know that you do not want any leeway the next time you are pulled over. Heck put a sticker on your car saying if I violate the letter of any law I want a ticket issued to me. You end your piece with the term “Law Abiding people in this state” I promise you if we go by your way of following the law, then there is no such person. We all break the laws, it is impossible to follow the law as written without waiver. Please continue exposing the waste, but use common sense instead of pushing your agenda. You will draw more readers rather than turning them off.

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 11:07h, 06 October

      I don’t think it was a rant on “The Three Little Pigs” but one on “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” – those are two entirely different books.

  • franklin
    Posted at 14:50h, 06 October

    The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” became one of the most popular books in 1989, earning awards, including the New York Times Best Illustrated book. Also, this story is notably popular for its wit and humor as Alexander T. Wolf (Al for short) tries to explain to the reader his side of the story on what happened when he met the three little pigs.

  • goodlistener
    Posted at 09:26h, 07 October

    Anyone who watched the debate in Edwardsville last night, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, got a much clearer picture of these two candidates. Kay is a slick, ruthless, deceptive politician who does not have the interests of the people at heart. In a discussion regarding businesses in Illinois, he said if they don’t like the conditions in Illinois, “they can leave”. There was an audible gasp in the audience. Arrogance is not a desirable quality in a representative.

    Cullen is a reasonable, intelligent advocate of the people who has a history of accomplishing goals. He is endorsed by the hard-working people of his district, unlike Kay who has the backing of big-money Chicago entities.

    Cullen is his own man…..Kay is Chicago’s man.

  • casper
    Posted at 18:55h, 07 October

    First of all, the League of Women Voters could never be accused of being neutral by any definition of the word.
    Slick? What does that mean? Did the writer mean it as a compliment or as a pejorative?

    Ruthless ? How so?

    Deceptive? Not so. Kay is a straight dealer. His name is known far and wide as a paradigm of the proverb about a good name being more desirable than great riches.

    They can leave Illinois? Kay is just reciting the plain facts and numbers about people and businesses leaving Illinois because of onerous, oppressive and job killing taxes, laws and arbitrary rules.
    The so-called “audible gasp” from the audience was probably occasioned by the plain, frank and honest answers Kay gave. People are just not used to such honest talk.

    Arrogant? Is plain talk, real facts and honest numbers arrogant? No it is not. Yes, arrogance is not a desirable quality in anyone. But that is not what we saw last night.

    Cullen may be reasonable. It is hard to say. He may be intelligent. And advocate for the people who has a history of accomplishing goals. Maybe not. In the five years he has been Superintendenty of the Venice School District about the only thing he can demonstrate is that he is a credit card abuser who eats on the District’s credit card, has spent $18,000 on Chicago luxury hotels and illegally buys flowers on the taxpayers’ dime.

    If you want to talk about Chicago money, let’s compare the $24 million Speaker Mike Madigan is spending versus Kay’s campaign chest. Do the names Goliath and David come to mind?

    • goodlistener
      Posted at 09:23h, 08 October

      First. Casper could use a good proofreader.

      Second. I stand by every word I said.

      Third. As for a disparity in campaign funds, Kay is not running against Madigan. He is running against Cullen. In my research on campaign funds, I found that Kay and Cullen are within about $10,000 of each other. The David/Goliath reference is ridiculous.

      • jmkraft
        Posted at 11:31h, 08 October

        Please correct your punctuation.

        • goodlistener
          Posted at 14:00h, 08 October


  • -s
    Posted at 09:32h, 23 October

    I am a teacher in Venice. Dr. Cullen always puts the needs of the students as a priority. He has a background in social work. He is a very kind and gentle man that sets high expectations for the school, teachers, and students. Anybody who has worked with him will see that right away. I worked at Venice before Dr. Cullen came here and he is a financial genius. He does not spend money recklessly. He spends money on updating the building when it is a danger to the students or has to be upgraded for codes and such. With the teachers, we have to tie in any request for classroom funds to how we are going to teach the state standards with it. He is a careful and deliberate decision maker. This is simply a smear campaign.

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 09:58h, 23 October

      Thanks for your input and opinion, however, we now have copies of his credit card statements and a copy of the federal civil rights lawsuit (including the court transcripts) the ROE lost for gender discrimination in his department while at the ROE. Those articles will be forthcoming.