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!
Article VIII SECTION 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS
(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 Amazon.com 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!
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!