Sunday, September 24, 2017

Newsflash: Bond Accountability Committee Draft Final Report Available on Board Docs and Full BOE Actions Now in Play.

This morning we received the following comment from community member Yvonne Mayer. We are publishing it below to put all our readers on notice of the important meeting that will take place tomorrow, September 25, 2017. The Bond Accountability Committee will meet to discuss the Draft Final Report at 5 pm at the D181 Administration Center (115 W. 55th Street, Clarendon Hills).  

Yvonne Mayer said...

Please consider posting this as a free standing post. I published this on my Facebook Account this morning.

D181 Bond Accountability Committee UPDATE

For those of you who have been following the disappointing findings of the D181 Accountability Committee, below is a link to the draft Final Report that the committee members will be discussing on Monday, 9/25 at 5 pm at the Administration Center.
I say "disappointing" above, because no one in the community could have possibly expected the committee members to uncover documents that reveal that the superintendent had direction and knowledge to ensure that the Referendum Publication Notice be published in a timely and accurate manner, thus preventing all of the chaos that ensued from December 2016 through June 2017 in connection with the HMS project.

According to news articles published in the Doings and The Hinsdalean, the full BOE must now determine what actions, if any, if must take to ensure that there is true accountability.

I, for one, have confidence that the BOE will take approrpriate steps. The work done so far by at least 2 of the 3 committee members establish that they are taking the work of the committee seriously and are not going to condone any type of cover up in connection with the information they discovered. Contrary to what D181 Board Member Turek has publicly stated (and remember, he is not on the committee), the work of the committee was not a witch hunt. It was the work of a committee established and approved by the full BOE, as a condition of the settlement agreement arising out of the HMS litigation, litigation, which it now appears could possibly have been avoided if the superintendent had followed direction and once he did not, disclosed to the full BOE his "mistake."$file/2017_09_23_Bond_Referendum_Review_Committee_Final_Report_with_Member_Comments_Redlined_%26_Highlighted.pdf

As one committee member has stated in the draft Final Report: ""It is this committee member’s opinion that the most serious issue this report addresses is Dr. White’s failure to disclose informaiton in connection with the publication error, where information was kept from the BOE for an extended period of time. The findings by two committee members upon close review of district-provided documents, showing that Dr. White was in fact informed of the publication requirements by the BOE’s legal counsel dating back to August 19, 2016, was not only unexpected but disappointing. Dr. White had a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the accurate and timely publication of the election notice and he did not meet that responsibility. What is at issue here is that throughout the process, Dr. White has not been forthright in sharing this information with the BOE dating back to December 2016. There have been a multitude of opportunities to share this information through the litigation process, during Accountability Committee meetings and in the reports generated by the district in response to questions raised by the committee. At no point did Dr. White come forward with this information. This has resulted in a loss of trust in his leadership. The implications of this should be discussed by the full board."

Here are links to the news articles referenced in the comment:

9/12/2017 Doings Article

Hinsdalean Article from 9/21/2017 edition

We have now had a chance to read the Draft Final Report the Committee will be discussing tomorrow.  We would like to highlight some additional information.

The Draft Final Report outlines the following timeline for the committee's next steps:
  • *September 15, 2017 - Deadline for the administration to provide a draft report to the committee members. (This document and the inclusion of all previous related materials is intended to meet that need.)
  • *September 22, 2017 - Deadline for the Committee to provide comments on the draft report (via individual response to Dr. White).
    *September 23, 2017 - Deadline for the administration to provide the committee with a document compiling the individual comments.
  • *September 25, 2017 (5pm) - Committee meeting to review the final report.
  • *September 29, 2017 - Deadline for the administration to create the final report, as stipulated in the settlement agreement.
    *October 20, 2017 - Deadline for the final Committee meeting, as stipulated in the Settlement Agreement. 
It appears that only 2 of the commttee members, Jennifer Burns and Meeta Patel, proposed extensive additions to the 9/15/17 draft prepared by the administration.  The third commitee member, Richard Giltner, only made 8 brief comments, 5 of which were his statement of disagreement with findings in the report. We are grateful for the additions made by Ms. Burns and Ms. Patel, since it is clear that the draft prepared by the administration did not provide the detail required for a report of this importance. In particular, the section of the report that addresses the Publication Error and Dr. White's failure to comply with the BOE's attorney's direction to ensure timely and accurate publication of the Rererendum Notice, and his failure to disclose this information to the full BOE, lacked sufficient detail to accurately describe the facts surrounding the committee's findings.

Of course, is anyone surprised by this?

We look forward to listening to the podcast of the meeting to hear what additions/deletions the 3 committee members decide should go into the FINAL report.

We would also like to point out that there are 3 agenda items of interest on the Agenda for Monday's Regular D181 BOE Business Meeting that may be related to the work of the Accountability Committee .

Agenda Item 8B:  Possible Legal Action regarding damages to the District

Agenda Item 8C:  Board Attorney Legal Services Request for Proposal

Agenda Item 8D:  Authorization to Engage Outside Legal Counsel for the Purpose of Providing Legal Guidance on Issues Raised by the Accountability Committee

Agenda Item 8B:  Possible Legal Action regarding damages to the District

For Agenda Item 8B, Dr. White has prepared a Board Report that can be accessed at: Possible Legal Action report.  We encourage our readers to read this fascinating report that, in our opinion, further evidences Dr. White's continuing refusal to accept responsibility for his role in the Notice Publication error.  The board will be deciding whether or not to file a lawsuit against the Dupage Election Commission for its failure to publish the referendum notice in a timely manner.  We now know that the Commission's error could have been prevented if Dr. White had followed the instructions given to him by the BOE's attorney.  Once again, Dr. White's report fails to mention his role in the mistake and points the finger of responsibility only at the Commission when he states in his report:

"The sale of bonds was delayed due to an error by the DuPage County Election Commission with the posting of the referendum publication notice. This error resulted in subsequent litigation and an eventual settlement between the District and plaintiffs. As a result, the District was not able to sell the needed bonds, and construction was delayed. There have been costs associated with the delayed construction."

In our opinion, it is truly disgusting that he does not even drop a footnote into his report and acknowledge his role in not preventing the mistake.  Fortunately for the District (according to the report), because of the delay in selling the bonds, there was a reduction in the bond interest rates that will actually save the district $5.6 million in debt service, so the error did not actually cost the taxpayers any money in connection with the sale of bonds. In light of this fact AND the Accountability Committee's findings on Dr. White's role in not preventing the mistake, in our opinion it would be an utter waste of taxpayer dollars for the District to sue the Dupage County Election Commission. Anyone who has been involved in a lawsuit knows that during discovery, the August 19 and August 23 emails between Dr. White and the lawfirm would have to be produced and would provide a basis for the Commission to file a Motion to Dismiss. While Dr. White recommends that the BOE not pursue litigation due to the $5.6 million in savings to the district, it should be clear to everyone that an equallty important reason is that the District's position has been compromised.

We hope the BOE calls Dr. White out for not being completely transparent in his Board Report in describing ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES surrounding the publication error.  

Although there was a reduction in bond interest rates and resulting debt service savings due to the delay in selling the bonds, in fact there were actual monetary costs incurred as a result of the delay in the HMS project, delays which we now know COULD HAVE and SHOULD HAVE been prevented had the BOE's attorneys' checklist in the August 19, 2016 letter been followed.  

Per Dr. White's report, the district incurred $881,803 in additional actual costs resulting from the HMS project delay due to the publication error.  $56,760 of this amount is for legal fees paid to Hauser and Izzo, the firm that was handling matters related to the DuPage Election Commission's mistake before the BOE hired a pro-bono attorney to take over the case.

According to the cost chart in the report, a portion of the legal fees is for work done by Hauser and Izzo in connection with the "Referendum Review Committee" (which we assume means the Bond Accountability Committee since there is no other referendum committee).  

WE ARE SPEECHLESS!  Actually, we are not speechless and have the following to say:

1. How dare Hauser and Izzo charge the district any legal fees resulting from the publication mistake? We now know that they failed to tell the BOE of the existence of the August 19 and 23rd letters, of Dr. White's fiduciary responsibliity to ensure timely and accurate publication of the notice, of Dr. White's failure to do so and Dr. White's failure to so inform the BOE.  The lawfirm should not financially benefit from its failure to inform it's CLIENT -- the BOE -- of any of this. 

2. Similarly, how dare Hauser and Izzo charge the district any legal when they sat silently at the July 26, 2016 Committee meeting and did not disclose the existence of the checklist THEY had sent Dr. White on August 19, 2016, when the issue of a checklist was discussed by the committee.

It seems pretty clear that the BOE should refuse to pay these legal bills!

Further, in our opinion, it also seems clear that the $881,803 in additional costs to the district ALL COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED had Dr. White followed the instructions he was given in the August 19, 2016 email from Hauser and Izzo, the BOE's attorney.  

We hope that one or more BOE members point all this out during Monday's meeting.

Agenda Item 8C:  Board Attorney Legal Services Request for Proposal

According to Dr. White's Report to the BOE which can be accessed at Report on Board Attorney Request for Proposal, it appears the BOE is considering hiring a new attorney to represent them. 


While Dr. White suggests that the reason is because "[i]t has been many years since the District has reviewed Board legal services," we would not be surprised if the real reason is that the BOE realizes it has been ill-served by Hauser and Izzo. Clearly, one would expect the BOE's attorney to inform it when the Superintendent did not follow it's instructions, since any instructions given to the Superintendent from the BOE's attorney are actually instructions from the Board of Education.  But Hauser and Izzo failed to do so in connection with the publication error.  While one Accountability committee member has stated in her comments to the Draft Final Report that there has been a "loss of trust" in the superintendent, the same is obviously true of the law firm.  

We hope the BOE does follow through and hire a new law firm.  That would be one act of accountability that is a slam dunk!

Agenda Item 8D:  Authorization to Engage Outside Legal Counsel for the Purpose of Providing Legal Guidance on Issues Raised by the Accountability Committee

The final item on the BOE's Regular Meeting agenda that relates to the work of the Accountability Committee is 8D.  No documents or reports are included on board docs for this item, but the title explains it. Obviously, the BOE must thoughtfully consider what actions, if any, to take against the superintendent in connection with the findings of the Accountability Committee Meeting.  This will require consultation with an attorney, and it obviously cannot be the attorneys at Hauser Izzo, who have been compromised by the firm's failure to inform the BOE of the August 19 and 23, 2016 letters.  

At this time we will refrain from commenting on what actions we personally think the BOE should take to hold Dr. White accountable. The BOE's "personnel" discussions will all have to take place in executive session, and the community  may never know what they actually discuss. Instead, we will all have to patiently wait to learn what, if any, actions they take, because if they do take any action, the action will need to be approved in open session at a future meeting.

Until then, STAY TUNED and SPEAK OUT!



Anonymous said...

Bloggers: Good points about the legal fees. Looking closely at the chart actually reveals that more than $56,760 has been billed by Hauser Izzo. There is an asterisk by the name of the firm dropping to a footnote that says: "Fees related to evaluating, reviewing, and preparing for a possible lawsuit - including working with the attorneys of the other districts, attending Board meetings to discuss litigation, and preparing a memo related to possible litigation - are not included in this total, as the Board attorney has advised they would not have been recoverable if the District pursues litigation." So it looks like the firm has billed even more than that to prepare stuff related to possibly suing the DuPage Election Commission. Why doen't Don White exercise real transparency and tell the BOE and the community the total the firm has charged the district and what this portion is?

Anonymous said...

I listened to the podcast of the last accountability meeting on 9/11 and heard Dr. White say that he was working with the Director of Communications on the report for the accountability committee. I just saw that the 9/25 board docs includes a link to the Salary and benefits report of all employees in the district. It is quite eye-opening, but in particular is the ridiculously high salary paid to the director of communications. It shows her current compensation package includes: base salary of $92,663, plus $4366.30 in retirement benefits, $17,265.16 in "other" benefits, 20 vacation days and 20 sick days. WOW! What a waste of taxpayer dollars. The BOE can get better for cheaper.

Anonymous said...

And lets not overlook the superintendent's compensation package or the fact that the compensation report on board docs is for the 2016-2017 school year and doesn't account for raises the employees have gotten for the 2017-2018 school year:

White's base salary is $239,527.31, plus retirement benefits $23,568.88, plus "other benefits" $21,188.14, plus 20 vacation days plus 17 sick days.

And don't forget that the vacation days are over and above the federal legal holidays that the employees also get off.

The links to both his package and the director of communication's compensation package are on board docs at:$file/Salary%20%26%20Benfit%20Report%202016-17.pdf

Anonymous said...

While I appreciate the bloggers not opining on what the BOE should do about White, as a community member, I am happy to share my opinion. FIRE HIM! Plain and simple. If you can't trust him any longer, he needs to go. And when he goes, please do the taxpayers a favor and not pay him a huge buyout. He will be lucky if you don't make him pay the district the $880,000 in additional costs incurred due to the publication error that he could have prevented.

Anonymous said...

1:22: I just checked Board Docs and saw that on April 17, 2017, the BOE approved raises for its administrators, including the director of communications. Her base salary for 2017-2018 is now $96,370.


So she got a $3,707 raise over her 2016-2017 base salary of $92,663. As a taxpayer, I can unequivocally say I am disgusted.

I agree, the BOE can hire better for cheaper. But the real question is will they?

Anonymous said...

I had a recent conversation with a neighbor-a Hinsdale tax payer-who supported Don White. The conversation centered around the fact that she felt no one person should take the "fall" for the mistakes made and that Dr White is not alone in his responsibility for having missed the notice period and not admitting his fault. She cited the previous BOE as well.

My response to this was to be angry but then after careful thought, here is what it comes down to--

BOE is made up of elected officials who serve at the pleasure of the tax payer and who draw no salary, benefits or any other type of privilege or compensation. It is the highest volunteer role of our school district. While I believe our previous BOE could have spent more time following up and reviewing documents before we went down this rabbit hole, the bottom line is-Dr. White serves at the pleasure of our district and yet he is a PAID official who draws not only a commanding salary and benefits but is the leader and figure head of our district. He is supposed to be a beacon of fairness, truth, leadership and trust for our district.

He is supposed to be someone to whom students, teachers, faculty, tax payers, and community members can look to for direction and guidance on all issues that relate to our schools and our district as a whole.

This latest lack of attention to detail, untruth, and frankly abuse of power is just one failure. What about when last year he released our children's date of births; personal records; etc by releasing directory information? What about the fact that he is at the helm of a department that has pretty much all quit and vacated? When corporate culture is suffering, look to the top--the tone is set by the "top dog".

What about the fact that we have lost time, tax payer dollars, drawn our focus away from curriculum and instruction, lost staff, and now have been suffering from legal fees all attributed to what is understandably a mistake, but a costly mistake?

The truth is mistakes happen. Smart leaders, low level employees, teachers, students, parents--we all make mistakes. But when it is YOUR JOB and you are paid to be the leaders at the helm and you fail to do your due diligence and responsibility, the choice is simple. The answer is clear.

Dr White should be held accountable for his wrong doings and his mistakes. Dr White shouldn't be allowed to waste tax payer dollars and cost our district months in legal hours, fees and delays that impact our students' education.

I applaud the hard work of the Accountability Committee. I applaud them. That's a volunteer role too by the way.

Anonymous said...

Sean Spicer was the RNC Communications Directors. 'Nuf said? If not, let me continue. The role of a communications director is to spin the truth to support his/her bosses' positions. The communications director manages the internal and external messages for an organization, group or company. In other words, D181 taxpayers are paying a ridiculously large amount of money for an individual who I believe spins the facts for Dr. White and his administration. Personally, I think that if we had a Communications Director who wasn't quite so adept at supporting Don White and his staff, D181 students and taxpayers wouldn't be in quite the mess we are in.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the 2 above comments. How many other public K-8 districts in IL have spin doctors? What a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money.