Updated: Grayslake D46 Won't Hire an Attorney to Attend Board Meetings

The Grayslake District 46 School Board found itself divided once again, this time on the issue of whether it was cost effective or even necessary to hire an attorney to attend board meetings and provide on-site counsel.

Update, Friday, Oct. 5:

In response to reader comments, Anna Kasprzyk, chief school business official, answered the following questions to clarify some information:

Could you confirm what the district spent (out of the budget) on legal fees for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 (to date)?

FY09-10 $111,016

FY10-11 $121,841

FY11-12 $154,956

FY 12-13 YTD $70,347

Are the legal fees what the district spends to consult the attorney (phone calls, e-mails, etc.)?

"Costs above include legal services provided by district legal counsel and include consultation on issues in areas such as personnel, labor relations, special education, student discipline, negotiations and general school law both on the telephone and in person."

Could you also confirm how much was paid by the district's insurance for legal settlements during these same years?

"I need to research this."

When the attorney is called upon to represent/defend the school district in court, is that paid by insurance or does that come out of the district budget along with other legal fees related to phone calls, e-mails, etc.? Does the district budget a certain amount annually for legal fees not paid through insurance?

"Sometimes, cases are covered by insurance. Not all. Yes, the district budgets for attorney fees," said Supt. Ellen Correll.


Original Post

Another lively debate ensued at the Oct. 3 meeting of the Grayslake District 46 School Board.

This time it was over whether the board should hire an attorney experienced in school law to attend meetings to answer questions, give legal advice and ensure proceedings are on the up and up for the good of the district, which has had its share of lawsuits and formal complaints.

In August, the board voted 5 to 1 approving an RFP (Request for Proposal) for an attorney to attend board meetings. Board member Keith Surroz voted against it, while Sue Facklam abstained.

On Wednesday, Anna Kasprzyk, chief school business official, informed the board the district had received five responses to the RFP. She narrowed the choices down to two firms based on experience in school law, cost and references.

Having an attorney present at board meetings was anticipated to cost $8,000 to $12,000 a year.

"It is not money well spent," said Facklam.

"We'd have to be foolish not to move forward," said Michael Carbone, who argued that shelling out upwards of $12,000 a year to be proactive as opposed to paying a $100,000 legal settlement for violating the law would surely be a worthwhile investment.

Shannon Smigielski indicated she wanted the board to interview all five law firms who replied to the RFP.

Kip Evans agreed, noting he was "a little disappointed" that Kasprzyk, who admitted to having no experience hiring or dealing with attorneys, was prepared to present only two law firms. Kasprzyk said it was her understanding that's what the board wanted her to do.

Facklam interceded on Kasprzyk's behalf, believing it was inappropriate for Evans to launch what she described as a "personal attack" against an employee.

"It seems we can't make a move without calling our current representative (Kevin Gordon) at $235 an hour," said Smigielski. "The resistance on this is unheard of. We have an obligation to find better representation at a lower cost."

Blame game

Keith Surroz said he didn't think it was necessary to have an attorney present at board meetings because most of the legal complaints against the district have come from the same source.

Lennie Jarratt, chairman of the Lake County Tea Party, recently took the district to court over its failure to release e-mails he asked for in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. During public comment, Jarratt's wife Lisa reported the judge in the case ruled the district was at fault.

Jarratt has also made formal complaints accusing board members of various ethics violations, which have resulted in investigation by the state's attorney's office.

"I don't agree we need someone here," said board president Ray Millington. "We've gone through training."

With the board's track record of violations, said Evans, "We need someone here that is an attorney that knows public laws. What are you trying to cover up here?"

Unable to reach consensus on whether to proceed with interviewing law firms, Facklam posed the question, "Are we going to move forward at all?"

"I say no," said Surroz. Facklam, Millington and Weinert agreed.

As Carbone, Evans and Smigielski were left shaking their heads, Surroz said of the 4-3 majority decision, "This is the way the board works."

"Keep on making the same mistakes," said Carbone.

Jose Cuervo October 05, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Thank you Angela for aquiring numbers. Not including 2012, the average spent per month from 2009-2011 = $10,772. If even half of that goes to consultation not litigation or settlement, then why wouldn't the district meet with all five firms that provided RFP to see about saving costs. It sounds like the highest cost was $1,000 a month. Assuming half of the dollars spent go toward basic functions of the board then lets assume $5,000 a month for lbasic egal costs. The board voted against reducing that cost to $1,000 a month. I am shaking my head too. No sense in not capitalizng on this. Hal I agree that term limits should be in place for every public body. Since its not, I hope that this election isn't uncontested like the one in 2008. The board needs a lot of fresh new air.
ConcernedParent46 October 05, 2012 at 07:17 PM
I am sorry but the entire board needs to be replaced! All of them act unprofessional and from what I have read and witnessed they do not seem qualified to make the right decisions for the district. Vote out those up for re-election out and the other should just resign...what has this group accomplished? Also the outsiders worried about the mystery emails etc...move on! YOU are wasting the boards time and our tax dollars! Let's concentrate on the district current business!
Tim Froehlig October 05, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Send an e-mail to D46 I am certain they'd give you a ton of events that are available to cover.
HAL E BERGER October 05, 2012 at 11:46 PM
It sounds like whoever Jose Cuervo is, and I suspect he isn't the Tequila, he should run for the board next election -- he has strong views. However, an interesting point every non board member might consider is the world looks much different when your on the board constrained by contracts, Federal and Illinois law -- you would be surprised, there are many more legal issues and reasons to retain an attorney than one might think. However, having one at the board meeetings, I say no it would restrict free speech by not only the board but by the community members during open response periods. Do you really want that?
Jose Cuervo October 06, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Hal, I do have strong views and opinions. Fortunately I would not qualify to run for a seat (thankless, unpaid, frustrating, stressful). I do understand that spectators have very little actual knowledge, me included. I do pay attention and have concerns about what is going on. I don't have answers, Thank you for having the courage and strength to be involved and serve your community.


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