Once again it is evident that accountability and responsibility are not being applied in our public bodies. In this case, U46 Chief Executive Officer/Interim Superintendent, Tony Sanders, took to Facebook regarding the illegal spending we uncovered and illegal meeting recently held.
We will break down his comments and point to the very problem the taxpayers are dealing with across this state.
Tony Sanders - My Weekly Message:
- For the past several months, U-46 has been scrutinized over a couple of issues mostly by a group that calls itself the Edgar County Watchdogs. Let me state my opinion that any form of scrutiny is welcome if it helps us improve our operational effectiveness and ultimately lead to better results for our kids.
His opinion that he welcomes scrutiny falls short, as it appears from his statement he only welcomes it if it improves operational effectiveness and leads to better results for our kids. A man in such a position should also realize such scrutiny exposed illegal spending in direct violation of their own policy and violations of our state Constitution. When the person in charge allows such violations, or worse, didn't even know it was happening, we have a serious problem. In addition, when we allow educators, who are suppose to be teaching our children about our Constitution, to violate it, a complete disconnect has occurred.
- However, as noted by the Watchdogs, we did have several areas of weakness in our processes which I appreciate having brought to our attention.
Areas of weakness in our process? How about out- right violation of your own policy, as well as the law, which came before any "process" of reviewing these charges?
The primary weakness was in the educators who violated law, as any educated adult knows you can't use the school credit card for your own private purchases. Other weaknesses exposed are the board's failure to review these things, which they are elected to do. They failed the public.
I have a very hard time believing that educated adults don't understand that.
- By and large, our purchase card uses were acceptable. However, we have implemented new procedures to be specific about what is acceptable (including blocking the use for specific purposes such as food and fuel), how purchase card statements are reviewed (every transaction now reviewed by a member of cabinet), and ensuring training is provided for all employees who have a purchase card.
Not impressed with implementing new procedures when you already have policies that forbid such action. What good does it do to implement a procedure when you already have policy being ignored? This just goes to show the taxpayer, when policy is violated, nothing is done to those violators.
- You may have read in the media that our most recent Board meeting brought the Edgar County Watchdogs to U-46 again. The concern they raised were the agenda for the Board meetings and their interpretation that three separate Board meetings were held. While I disagree with their interpretation, upon reflection I can understand the points they raised.
I appreciate that he understands the points we raised, but what is concerning is that we were the ones that had to point out the failings, which according to the newly posted agenda has been properly fixed, thus an acknowledgement their actions were wrong.
- To clarify, this past Monday night we had two Board meetings. The first was a Board of Finance committee beginning at 4 p.m. where we presented the proposed tax levy and abatement to the committee. The second was our regular meeting which convenes at 5:15 p.m. After convening at 5:15 p.m. in open session, the Board immediately votes to enter closed session to discuss items allowed for by law (personnel, student discipline, etc.). The Board then returns to open session at 7 p.m. to hold the open portion of their agenda. The posting of our regular meetings has not changed in the nearly nine years I’ve been here.
No sir, you had three meetings of which agendas for each meeting was provided to the police. Two of those meetings were not properly posted on the building.
Ironically, his own comments confirm they violated the Open Meetings Act. By taking the position that their 5:15 is their "regular" meeting, then posting a separate agenda for a 7pm meeting, it indicates the time posted was not correct. If 5:15 is the "regular" meeting there is no need to post an agenda and meeting notice for a 7pm meeting, which is what they did.
- State law requires the Board to provide time for public comments for every open session. Because our agendas are separated between closed and open sessions, the Watchdogs believe we needed two public comment sections. When they were not allowed to speak at 5:15 p.m., the Edgar County Watchdogs contacted the Elgin Police Department and requested a citizens’ arrest of the Board.
Let's educate the educator, and the public. Nice play on words that won't work. A clear attempt is used to confuse the term "open session" with public meeting. The law requires the board provide time for public comment at every public meeting. Using the words open session appears to be an attempt to once again co-mingle the 5:15 and 7pm meetings as one, insinuating only the 7pm was an open session when in fact even the 5:15 meeting has an open session, both before and after the one agenda item of going into closed session.
So there is no confusion, the 5:15 meeting had a separate agenda, meeting notice, and was a public meeting of which going into closed session was a single agenda item. The fact only one item was on the agenda does not mean the public has no right to speak at that meeting.
- The Elgin Police did allow us to move forward with the meeting. Thus far we’ve heard nothing more from the police or from the State’s Attorney.
The fact he still refused to allow public comment at the 5:15 pubic meeting resulted in a criminal complaint being filed as well as complaints with the PAC office of the Attorney General. We were not attempting to stop a meeting from taking place. We simply wanted our right to speak to be honored as the law requires. Sadly, this board and their attorney took the position of defiance as their path to the solution, which tells the public what we are dealing with.
- Our Board President, Donna Smith, and I have been working with legal counsel to determine if we should amend the agenda to make it more clear.
As pointed out before, it appears they see how wrong they have been doing things for at least the last nine years. The agenda for Monday's meeting agenda now reflects a single start time of 5:15 with a recess in which that meeting will reconvene at 7pm.
Exactly what we told the police was the only legal way to accomplish their claim it was a single meeting the night they violated the public's right to speak.