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May 27, 2024

Will-Grundy-Kendall ROEs Hosted Majestic Isle Casino Servers/Email For Years –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On December 8, 2023

Will-Grundy-Kendall Counties (ECWd) –

As early as 2013, the “Professional Development Alliance” (“PDA”) and its government employees were under contract with Vista Learning (See 2013 contract). The PDA is a public Agency of the Will County and Grundy-Kendall Counties Regional Offices of Education (“ROE”) created through an Intergovernmental Agreement (“IGA”).

Vista Learning filed its first tax return in 2004 according to its filings with the Internal Revenue Service, using the physical address and mailing address of the ROE’s PDA in that filing which was signed by Jay Linksman as Secretary and Director of Vista Learning.

From this alleged original contract dated in 2013, Shawn Walsh (former Will County ROE and currently employed by the Illinois State Board of Education) signed the contract as President of Vista Learning and Jay Linksman signed the contract as Executive Director of the PDA. It should be noted that Shawn Walsh was also the Regional Superintendent of the Will County Regional Office of Education and a party to the PDA intergovernmental agreement. Jay Linksman was also on the board of Vista Learning at the time he signed the contract as executive director of the PDA.

It is under this framework that we believe Vista Learning, through its contract with the PDA, perfected and operated its not-for-profit corporation and its Evaluwise software, all using public resources and employees through a series of at least two contracts that were occasionally reaffirmed. Yes, there were some reimbursements back to the PDA.

Additionally, its NFP status, until 2021, was based on “solicits donations of used computers and then rebuilds them so they can be gifted to needy children who have been identified by their school principals and teachers as those who will benefit academically.” See page 25.

In their tax year 2021 filing, it changed to “Improve the quality of education through effective programs, materials, and services. The organization creates and operates educational programs and software which benefits teachers, school administrators and the general public. The organization also provides computers to students in need and scholarships for students planning to attend college.” See last page.

The Casino

Beginning at least in June of 2013, the government office of the ROE’s PDA hosted the servers and email for the Majestic Isle Casino in St. John’s – Antigua and Barbuda (currently under new ownership but using the same website). The casino was purchased by a PDA employee’s husband but later sold to another owner.

We do know that on January 27, 2014, an email with an invoice was sent from jbross@pdaonline.org to five other PDA employees to Derek Brenczewski (Majestic Isle Casino) for “services” provided by Vista Learning. According to the invoice, those services included email accounts and services for the Casino (themic.com) and a company called Graffle at “Graffle.com (no longer operational).”

There are other emails as early as October of 2013 discussing setting up servers/email for the casino and “themicfoundation.org” (apparently operated by Derek’s wife) – another email in 2015 clearly indicates a government employee working on invoicing a private company – all of which were circulating, sending, and receiving these emails through the government services owned and paid for by the PDA and its government employees (presumably while under contract with Vista Learning).

Some of these emails were also routed through the Illinois State Board of Education’s Learning Technology Center’s servers at ltc1s.k12.il.us.

This type of activity is entirely unacceptable for government employees and public bodies such as Regional Offices of Education under the guise of an intergovernmental agreement and a contract to participate in while using taxpayer resources.

We have requested more information through the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) from the PDA but have not received it as of this publication.

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