District 122 Board Gets Chippy Over Voting Ethics, Transparency
Board members questioned others' voting records Wednesday night.
With a fairly empty agenda Wednesday night, District 122 Board of Education members used the meeting to call out others' votes on the tax levy last month and one's lack of transparency when abstaining from a vote to change banks.
When the usually routine approval of board meeting minutes came up, member Kathy Miller called out Maureen Broderick for not disclosing that she has employment ties to the holding company of Old Plank Trail Bank, which the school board last month voted to use for its banking.
"No one talks about transparency more than you, Maureen," said Miller, who discovered the issue after researching why Broderick abstained from voting on the matter. "I’m just wondering why the rules don’t apply to you. You’ve had numerous opportunities to disclose it to us and you didn’t. It’s just a huge conflict of interest.
The holding company is Wintrust Financial Corporation, which means it pledged assets to protect the school district's investments in the event that Old Plank bank goes under. Broderick works for a separate division, Wintrust Mortgage, a subsidiary of the company.
Broderick said she did nothing wrong because she abstained from voting on the matter at the board's Dec. 15 meeting. She was advised to do so by her lawyer, but didn't seek the advice of the district's lawyer. Broderick also told Superintendent Michael Sass her plans to abstain the night of the meeting.
"I had nothing to do with the bid processing," she said. "I have no money gained from the bid processing. I work for a completely separate division. I thought abstaining covered me."
After accusing Broderick of violating numerous codes of ethics and policies, Miller backed off but remained upset.
"There's legal and then there's ethical," Miller said.
Sass assured the board that at no point did Broderick urge the administration to pursue Old Plank Trail Bank. Instead, business manager Harold Huang looked into the assets of various banks that put out a bid and after the bid process discovered that Wintrust was the holding company of Old Plank bank.
Still, board members maintained that Broderick should and could have disclosed her connection without simply abstaining from the vote.
"You could have at least shared it with us," Board President Kathy Markus said.
Tax Levy Voting
Board member Deb Kedzior also took issue with votes of her fellow board members at the Dec. 15 meeting. She was upset that three board members who voted to approve the estimated tax levy amount in November voted against it the following month.
The board voted to authorize an actual levy of $43,268,067 with an estimated extension of $42,775,303. The increase to the average homeowner with property valued at $210,000 is expected to be about $57 a year. Sass said the administration deemed that necessary, because without it the district could face an additional $1 million to its already "cautiously assumed" $3.2 million budget deficit.
Kedzior took issue with the change in votes and asked why the three members didn't present an alternative plan if they didn't like the estimated levy.
"We gave a consensus at the November board meeting," she said. "Why didn’t we ask (Huang) to do something else?"
Martino said there wasn't time for an alternative plan and that he finalized his decision the night of the Dec. 15 vote.
"That’s the administrators’ job to come to us with the levy," he said. "I'm not going to sit at home and draw up a new plan. Pardon me if you don’t agree that I changed my mind."
Smith said she wasn't in favor of a tax increase at all, and reflected that sentiment in the final vote.
"When you’re sitting on a board and you’re in the minority a lot of the time, you can talk to someone until you’re blue in the face," Smith said to Kedzior. "I know you’ve only been on the board for two years. I don’t have to explain this to you right now."
"Remind me to never tell you again that we’re all getting along," Smith added, speaking to Markus.