Effingham, IL. (ECWd) –
It has come to our attention that the Board of Trustees of the Effingham School District were given free items (compensation) that the general public are not given, free of charge.
We see this in almost every case where the legislature has explicitly stated elected officials work without compensation. Library Trustees think they can eat steak dinners, take gold jewelry “for their service” and waive late fees “because they are trustees”, park district commissioners think they can get free boat passes, campsites, and lifetime free membership for themselves and their families, community college trustees who think it’s OK to drink it up and eat 5-star french meals “because they are trustees”, and now local school districts who think they can get free meals after board meetings and receive free season passes to their district’s sporting events.
Each and every one of those examples above are violations of the Constitution, the School/Park/Library/etc state laws, yet it is still happening. Why? Because citizens allow it to continue and because prosecutors look the other way.
In August of 2015, the elected school board members received free Season Passes to sporting events. Meanwhile, the parents of these student athletes must pay full price to see their children play. This is illegal and should be prosecuted if the school board members do not immediately return their season passes AND repay the district the entry fee for any event where they have used those passes in the past.
The Board also gets a “free” meal after most board meetings. It’s not really free, you, the taxpayer, are paying for it and it is not authorized.
Oath of Office violation:
Their Oath of Office includes language such as “I shall respect taxpayer interests by serving as a faithful protector of the School District’s assets.”
Somehow I don’t think free season passes to sporting events are effectively and faithfully protecting school district assets, and as such they have violated their oath of office.
Article VIII, Section 1(a) and (b) explain the use of public funds, property, and credit:
(a) Public funds, property or credit shall be used <span style="text-decoration: underline;">only for public purposes</span>.
(b) The State, units of local government and school districts shall incur obligations for payment or make payments from public funds <span style="text-decoration: underline;">only as authorized by law</span> or ordinance.
What is the public purpose of free season passes to board members – especially when the receipt of compensation is forbidden by law?
School Code violation:
The Illinois School Code says that school board members “shall serve without compensation.”
Compensation is anything received, no matter what form and no matter who from, based on their position as school board members.
School Policy violation:
Effingham School Board Policy 2:125 specifically states that “No School Board members may receive compensation for their services, except that a Board member serving as the Board Secretary may be paid an amount up to the statutory limit if the Board so provides.”
Update for clarification:
I have talked to other school superintendents and the general thought was that the school board should show its support for the athletic events, and they are there as representatives of the voters, so that is why they get in without paying.
Another thought was that “it is under the dollar amount listed in the Gift Ban” portion of the Illinois Public Officer Prohibit Activities Act.
Both thoughts above should not apply – there is no provision in the school code, and it is not the board’s duty, to attend athletic events as representatives of the voters. Additionally, the gift ban only applies to prohibited sources, and then you would still have to revert back to the school code which states they shall work without compensation.