Since the ouster of New Lenox School District 122 member Kathy Miller from the ballot on Jan. 11, allegations of personal and political attacks among board members have bubbled to the top. There's a steamy history between board members that dates back almost four years.
The latest point of contention was the 2-1 vote to invalidate Miller's nominating petition, the three members of the Electoral Board of New Lenox School District 122 declared Miller's potion to be invalid due to a notary error. Broderick, who has been a notary public for 20 years, insisted that her vote was not personally or politically motivated. With a copy of the Illinois Board of Education guidelines and notary association paperwork that specifies the rules for nomination petitions and the notary seal; she said it was a matter of an "insufficient" petition.
The three members that sat on the Electoral Board were president Nick DiSandro, secretary Maureen Broderick and vice president Sue Smith. After a 15-minute recess, DiSandro cast the only vote in favor of Miller. Smith and Broderick voted to reject Miller's petition. (Patch previously described the recess as a closed-door discussion. We regret the error.)
Smith said she voted to strike the page because "it was not in compliance with the election laws."
However, the conflict especially between Broderick, who is secretary of the board, and Miller came to a fever pitch two years ago. At that time, the board authorized a move to put its deposits in Old Plank Trail Bank; Broderick had abstained from the vote. A few weeks later at the Jan. 20, 2011 meeting, Miller accused Broderick of a lack of transparency for not revealing publicly that she worked for a subsidiary of an Old Plank Trail Bank holding company, Wintrust Mortgage Co.
Miller accused Broderick of violating numerous codes of ethics and policies. "There's legal and then there's ethical," Miller said.
The allegation of a conflict of interest wound up costing the district about "$7,000" worth of attorney's fees and staff time to conclude that the matter was not illegal, said Broderick on Friday. "It was very upsetting."
The cost of the district's legal investigation into the Wintrust matter actually came in around $3,000. School District Attorney Brian Crowley of Franczek Radelet P.C spent between 10 and 12 hours on the matter. His rate is $250 an hour.
On the Wintrust matter specifically, Miller said, "I didn't want an attorney." She thought the matter could be handled at the board level. "(Broderick) was the one that felt that was insufficient."
Broderick pointed out in the minutes of the Jan. 19, 2011 meeting, which can be found on the New Lenox School District 122 website, that Miller referred to the violation as potentially a Class 4 felony. This prompted Broderick to seek input from the district's attorney.
Crowley ultimately found that Broderick had not broken any laws because she abstained from the vote. However, he admonished her and said she should have been more open.
In response, Miller told Broderick, "OK, you didn't do anything illegal. …Just because it's legal doesn't mean we've done our jobs as board members."
However, during the last campaign, Broderick said she has speculated that Miller was behind a plan to discredit her. It was a tight election, and 12 candidates ran for four seats. When questioned about her role in negative campaign tactics, Miller denied any involvement. Instead, Miller said, she suspects Broderick was the real source of that distribution.
In light of the Jan. 11 vote in favor of removing Miller from the ballot, Miller has accused Broderick of practicing partisan politics.
Miller said she intends to file an appeal of the decision with the Will County Circuit Court.
Miller points out that the person who filed an objection to her petition, Nikki Sanders, is highly active in the local Republican caucus. When asked what compelled Sanders to file and objection to Miller's petition, she said, "A little birdie" provided an anonymous tip."
Miller said the school board is supposed to be "non-partisan. I don't think it's how (Broderick or Smith) have looked at it."
Broderick said she and Miller have known each other since high school. There was no bad blood in their youth, but there has been contention between the two on the board. Still, she said, there haven't been any issues since the gnashing of teeth two years ago.
Speaking of Broderick and Smith, Miller said, "I truly think this is their opportunity to get me off the board."
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