Published April 16, 2015
Complaint cascade vexes board, parties urged to drop grievances
By Ken Knutson
Several complaints stemming from the distribution of campaign materials on school property continue to preoccupy Hinsdale High School District 86, as complainants gave no indication of backing down despite a plea from an outgoing board member for all parties to withdraw their grievances so the district can move past the matter.
The agenda for Monday night’s District 86 board meeting indicated that board members would approve a directive to govern uniform grievance complaint proceedings regarding campaign activity on district property.
But board member Kay Gallo moved to table the recommended action, arguing that the board was not within its rights to implement new guidelines until the process spelled out by existing board policy was finished.
“The board can only act pursuant of school code and board policy, which board policy 2:260 handles the uniform grievance procedure. There is no board authority to proceed with this item since the investigation mandated by this policy has not yet been completed. There is no basis or authority for discussion or action for this so-called due process item,” she said, noting that it is not an urgent situation because Superintendent Bruce Law instituted a temporary ban on campaign activity on district property subsequent to the complaints.
Board President Richard Skoda said discussion on the matter would need to take place in closed session because of the probability of legal action regarding one or more of the complaints.
He said he was concerned about protecting due process, something he suggested is being denied under current policy since he, as the subject of one of the complaints, is not able to see the complaint.
“The question here is do you want the truth to come out or do you want a kangaroo court?” he posed. “Let me prove my innocence.”
Board member Jennifer Planson responded that Skoda was acting prematurely.
“You haven’t even let the process take effect. You haven’t even let the special investigator or the complaint manager even investigate it,” she said.
Board member Claudia Manley amended Gallo’s motion to reserve discussion for closed session because of the potential for legal action.
The district’s attorney Terry Hodges confirmed that.
“I was notified, first Friday, and then today, by the attorney for Claudia Manley, Noel Manley (Claudia’s husband), and I’m not certain if it was for you, Dr. Skoda, that if the policy interpretation of 4:20 on distribution and advertising of literature is not changed, then there will be a court action, potentially,” Hodges said.
Board member Ed Corcoran said he was wary of incurring legal fees over this matter and advocated that talks be moved to closed session.
“I’d like to see at least part of this discussion occur in closed session, especially if we have money pending on this and it’s a possible litigation case,” Corcoran said.
Victor Casini, who announced his resignation from the board on April 7 halfway through his four-year term, requested that the four parties who have filed grievances drop them in the best interests of the district.
“If every complainant would consider submitting a dismissal of their complaint, put this behind us, dismiss it with prejudice but conditioned upon the dismissal of every other complaint ... we’ll save the district a lot of money and a lot of people a lot of heartache,” he said.
Gallo said Manley, Planson and Skoda, as subjects of complaints, should recuse themselves from the vote to move the discussion to closed session, which passed 4-2 with Gallo and board member Mike Kuhn dissenting and Planson abstaining.
No action was taken on the matter in open session. The board is expected to continue its consideration of the uniform grievance complaint policy.