Lawsuit


The rumor I hear is that the hearing in front of a judge about whether District 211 violated state law by entering into a no-bid contract for energy with the Illinois Energy Consortium has been moved to Friday, June 22.

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It has been awhile since I looked at District 211’s official website update about its dealings with the Illinois Energy Consortium. Looking at it this morning, the first few paragraphs seem new (although I may just have early onset senile dementia).

Here are the first few sentences of the update as it now reads with my comments:

On May 11, 2006, the District 211 Board of Education approved the best offer received in the District’s request for proposals for electric and natural gas.

It has been reported over and over again and even, I think, stipulated in the court filings, that there were no written requests for proposals issued by the District. At best, I believe that a District 211 employee made some phone calls. So I think it is a significant exaggeration to refer to “the District’s request for proposals”.

(more…)

The Cresthill School District has a new blog focusing on it. Welcome and happy writing!

Lennie at Education Matters has posted Part I and Part II of his first-person account of Michael Medved’s Chicago appearance from Monday.

Great stuff.

There’s more information at Keeping An Eye on the Illinois Energy Consortium website. Which reminds me, I got a note the other day saying that the final hearing in the case of Tarsitano v. District 211 will be held on June 6, so mark that date on your calendar!

 And most importantly, I am wearing a new dress for spring 🙂

At the new website devoted to keeping an eye on the Illinois Energy Consortium and its no-bid business model, please read the FAQs.

Is this what we want in District 211?

District 211 has paid and is continuing to pay an expensive legal firm to defend its “right” to spend your money on electricty and natural gas without getting competitive bids. You can see the fruits of that legal expenditure here, along with the smashing replies of the plaintiff.

What on God’s green earth could the school board have been thinking?

Finally, I invite you to absorb the eloquent brief filed by Tarsitano last week in response to the legal brief (the one you paid for) of District 211.

The opening paragraph:

This is a case about no-bid vendor contracts. These vendor contracts involve an expenditure of at least $9.5 million of taxpayer funds. They contain no prices, pricing methodology or price escalation protection. These vendor contracts literally obligate the defendant school district to pay whatever amount the vendor in its sole discretion decides to charge. Tarsitano requests a declaration that the District’s no-bid vendor contracts are unlawful as having not been publicly bid under the School Code. The District’s response is to ask this Court to create and extend statutory protection from competition for one of its vendors.

Yes, we live in a school district where your school board and your school board superintendent are using your tax dollars to pay attorneys to argue a case before a judge which, if they win, will mean that your school board will be able to buy electricity and natural gas without having to get competitive bids.

Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.

Here it is.

We are blessed to have one of the seven board members who is ready, willing and able to call it like he sees it.

My favorite part of Mr. Lloyd’s report:

Mr. Cortez and Mr. Braglia, as union leadership, presented concerns about class size and scheduling, needed funding not getting into the classroom while the district experiences significant cash surpluses, open communication as well as the energy issue. Now in my time on the Board, I have seen that whenever the Union addresses the Board we are unable to just let them say what they need to say, listen and perhaps consider following up DIRECTLY with them off line. Instead, we lose control of the meeting and allow the administration and their designated supporters to counterpoint whatever the union says in effect turning the Board meeting into a public debate.

Also:

Next, at taxpayers expense, the Board’s attorney got up and spoke about the IEC case in essence presenting their courtroom defense at the Board meeting.

Unbelievable how much time and money and mental effort this administration has spent defending a poor decision.

The Trib is also on the story of last night’s union meeting to decry the IEC contract:

District 211 teachers hit energy consortium.

HOFFMAN ESTATES — Angry over the decision by northwest suburban Township High School District 211 to purchase electricity from a statewide educational energy consortium without competitive bidding, teachers union representatives called on the school board Thursday to unplug the two-year contract.

“I want them to do what’s right for the taxpayers of this district and reverse their position on this energy commitment,” John Braglia, president of the District 211 teachers union, said before a school board meeting at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates.

Where it says “before a school board meeting” might be a little confusing–some people might think it means he said it at the school board meeting in front of the school board–whereas it was said at a press conference prior to the meeting.

The article goes on:

In May 2006 the district joined hundreds of districts statewide in the Illinois Energy Consortium, an 8-year-old non-profit company created by the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois Association of School Business Officials and the Illinois Association of School Administrators to help schools get better rates for electricity and natural gas.

Allegedly, anyway.

The consortium has been criticized since it was revealed that about $4.5 million in fees unrelated to utility services was collected from school districts in the last three years. Concerned that most districts have hired the consortium without getting bids, real estate developer William Tarsitano sued District 211 alleging that the practice is illegal.

When you get right down to it, if they were so bent on helping school districts save money, why did they collect $4.5 million in fees? Wouldn’t they have wanted that money to stay with the districts? To go into the classrooms?

I missed the Board meeting. Were you there and are you willing to give me an insider’s view on it? Email me here.

The other big event yesterday was the press conference held by the District 211 teachers union to ask that District 211 rescind its contract with the Illinois Energy Consortium on the grounds that the contract is fiscally irresponsible and utilizes a no-bid business model.

Chad Brooks of the Daily Herald reports on that news conference in this morning’s paper in Union wants power contract unplugged.

Believing Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 is acting fiscally irresponsibly, the district’s teachers union, along with two school board candidates and a local legislator, demanded Thursday that the current energy contract be rescinded.

Union leader John Braglia is quoted in the article with this strong statement:

“This district has always had a long history of integrity, honor and commitment to the taxpayers and what we are seeing happening is a shift away from that commitment,” Braglia said. “That is very troubling to me.”

Superintendent Thornton gives his reasons for believing the contract is legal and Bill Tarsitano’s attorney Todd Rowden gives his reasons for believing it isn’t.

To my knowledge, this is the first time that the Daily Herald has said anything about the IEC lawsuit, first covered in the Chicago Tribune on March 5.

On the other hand, I received an interesting email yesterday from one of the non-incumbent candidates for District 211 school board. Editors from the Daily Herald met with all the candidates to determine who the Daily Herald would editorially endorse. This school board candidate reports that in her interview, she was asked whether she would vote to fire Roger Thornton.

Unless the Daily Herald automatically asks every single school board candidate in every single school board race if they’d vote to fire the superintendent in their District, that’s an intriquing question. But I think most readers of the Daily Herald would be surprised to know the editors are asking it. I plan to write the editors at the Daily Herald to see if I can get confirmation of this question from them.

Correction: A reporter from the Daily Herald writes to correct my mistaken claim that they haven’t been covering the District’s contract with the IEC. He says:

“We were the first paper to report on this last year when the contract was signed. We also wrote subsequent stories when Mr. Tarsitano filed his lawsuit, as well as when a judge ruled against the district’s motion to dismiss the case.”

My apologies for the significant error.

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