Suzanne Bassi


Thank you so much to a reader for providing me with an inside report on a key meeting held in District 211 union HQ last Thursday, April 5 to discuss what the lawsuit against District 211 for entering into a no-bid contract for electricity means to the union.

Hosted by union leader John Braglia, the meeting was attended by about 25 union reps, four members of the Illinois House, two members of the Illinois Senate and three candidates for the District 211 school board. None of the school board incumbents who are running for re-election attended.

There as invited guests were Todd Rowden and Timothy Binetti. They are the attorneys in charge of the lawsuit brought by Bill Tarsitano against D211 for its no-bid energy contract.

State Rep. Suzanne Bassi was there and, we hear, was given an earful for her advocacy of an insane piece of proposed state legislation that would exempt school districts from having to look at competitive price bids for electricity and natural gas.

State Rep. Paul D. Froehlich, a Republican from Schaumburg, was also there. Rep. Froehlich has a website here.

According to the report we’ve been given, Rep. Froehlich crisply and authoritatively interjected “this doesn’t pass the smell test” as he listened to a description of the process by which District 211 entered into the now-infamous no-bid energy contract.

Suzanne Bassi must not see it the same way, since she has refrained from publicly disassociating herself from the absurd HB 261.

We hear that a young firebrand at the meeting denounced Bassi as a “mouthpiece for the superintendents”.

We also hear that Bassi is closely associated with District 211 school board president Debra Strauss, who is fighting to retain her position of influence on the school board. Besides being the chair of the D211 school board, Strauss also chairs lobbying firm Ed-Red, which is known to be lobbying in favor of HB 261 with your tax dollars.

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A reader was the source for this blog’s revelation last week that paid administrators working for District 211 and District 15 spent two days in Springfield lobbying for the atrocious HB 261, a bill that would exempt school districts from having to get bids for utility contracts.

As my readers know, District 211 is currently defending itself against a lawsuit because it entered into a no-bid contract for electricity with the Illinois Energy Consortium. The concern that we as parents and taxpayers have about that no-bid contract is that it seems very likely that District 211 is paying more for electricity than it needs to pay, in spite of District 211’s increasingly lame attempts to claim otherwise.

Not only are we paying more for electricity, we’re also paying for attorneys to defend against the lawsuit, and now it turns out we’re paying for our administrators to spend days in Springfield lobbying for a bill that means that in the future the District 211 school board could with impunity enter into no-bid contracts for electricity and natural gas.

UNBELIEVABLE.

Would you like some answers from the District 211 school board members? I know I would, so I wrote each of them last week.

I also wrote to all the board members and candidates for District 15, since a District 15 employee also spent two days in Springfield lobbying on behalf of the atrocious HB 261. One District 211 school board member responded. He said he’d answer my questions if I gave him my telephone number. So much for “improving communications”.

Meanwhile, two District 15 school board members and/or candidates responded to the question I asked them about what they think about we, the parents and taxpayers, footing the bill for an administrative employee to lobby for a bill in Springfield that is so bad that Suzanne Bassi has withdrawn herself as chief co-sponsor–even though, as we know from District 211 school board member Bill Lloyd, she came under heavy pressure from District 211 honchos to support this absurd legislation.

Here are excerpts from the two answers I got. I post these because I think it’s important for concerned citizens to know what our school board members and candidates think. If you like the answers, or if you dislike the answers, take this as a signal to get involved.

I think that lobbying by District employees is allowable where the lobbying agenda has been fully disclosed, deliberated upon, and approved by a vote of the Board of Education. I think it is important that District administrators not set their own agendas, and it is up to the board to make sure that the administrators and their lobbying efforts serve the best interests of the community.

and

I am most certainly AGAINST our employees lobbying for this at 211 or 15. Our employees and superintendent all work for the tax payers/community under the direction of the board. I don’t think that there is one community member that would support the district in its effort to loosen the constraints of the laws that bind them. (ie raise 10k to 25k) Our children and their education should be our focus.

Blog readers: Please ask District 211 and District 15 board members and candidates where they stand on this! And let me know what you hear

It is time for the members of the District 211 school board to openly share with the community their views on recent developments.

I sent each member of the school board the following email this morning with my questions. You may have your own. I’ve included their email addresses at the end so you can easily email them.

Dear members of the District 211 school board:

According to Chad Brooks of the Daily Herald, the main focus of candidates for the District 211 school board in the upcoming school board election is the need to improve communications.

On my weblog about District 211, I have been reporting the story about the controversial contract between District 211 and the Illinois Energy Consortium.

Parents, teachers and taxpayers in District 211 have a growing list of questions about this. I invite each of you to respond to the following questions. This will help promote the better communication that we all desire.

Question 1:

In an article in last week’s Pioneer Local by Mario Bartoletti, superintendent Roger Thornton is quoted as saying that “the selection process [for electricity provider] used by the district was as open as those in other districts. ‘We did three requests for proposal,‘ he said. ‘Our Board of Education is the one that took the final action in public session.'”

However, board member Bill Lloyd has now publicly disagreed with Mr. Thornton. Mr. Lloyd wrote on March 25, “The district did not bid in any way for its electricity or natural gas purchase. I have been the Board of Education representative to attend all sealed bid openings as per board policy. Bids were never sent out under the board’s policy on bidding procedure. As for another form of bidding that would have requested proposals without the requirement that they be sealed, this also did not occur.”

Who is telling the straight story: Mr. Lloyd or Mr. Thornton?

Question 2:

As a board member, do you feel, in retrospect, that you were given adequate information by Roger Thornton before agreeing to the contract with the Illinois Energy Consortium?

Question 3:

Last week, District 211 lobbying firm Ed-Red sent out an e-newsletter congratulating District 211 administrative employee Steve East for spending two days in Springfield lobbying on behalf of HB 261. HB 261 is a bill that would exempt school districts from having to seek competitive bids for utility contracts.

District 211 board president Debra Strauss is also on the board of Ed-Red.

District 211 employees have taken other actions to support HB 261, as described by Bill Lloyd:

“After [Suzanne Bassi] introduced this bill, she was called to the district offices of D211 and met with the superintendent among others. After this meeting she promptly tabled her bill and signed on as a co-sponsor of House Bill 261. You see, District 211 is actively supporting HB 261, the bill that removes bidding requirements. Without explicit board approval, district personnel have been working to get this bill passed in the legislature even including testifying in front of the committee working on this bill.”

Since you as a board did not approve this lobbying activity on the part of District 211 administrative personnel, who did? I wrote to Steve East last week to ask him who ordered him to do this. He has not responded.

Your board president Debra Strauss has also not responded to my inquiries on this.

Question 4:

Have any of you attempted to learn who made the decision to order Mr. East to make these trips?

Question 5:

Were you present at the meeting in District 211 offices with Suzanne Bassi, after which she switched from being an opponent to being a supporter of HB 261?

Question 6:

Do you support HB 261?

Question 7:

If you do support HB 261, what reasons can you provide for supporting it?

Thank you for your time and your commitment to open, honest sharing with your constituents.

Here are the email addresses of the District 211 school board members:

Debra Strauss.

Martha Swierczewski.

Charles Fritz, Jr.

Lynn Davis.

Robert LeFevre.

Anna Klimkowicz.

Bill Lloyd.

I’d like to find out if any of the non-incumbent candidates for the upcoming school board election support or oppose HB 261, but I still am finding it impossible to locate any contact information for them.

If any of my readers know how to get in touch with any of the non-incumbent candidates, please email me.

On Sunday, District 211 school board member Bill Lloyd wrote:

Our own local state representative Suzie Bassi introduced a bill that would have specifically required schools to have to bid on energy. After she introduced this bill, she was called to the district offices of D211 and met with the superintendent among others. After this meeting she…signed on as a co-sponsor of House Bill 261.

I previously wrote about HB 261 here.

I wrote to Representative Bassi on Wednesday, March 21 asking her to justify her support for this terrible bill. She did not respond.

The exciting news is that Suzanne Bassi appears to have withdrawn as chief co-sponsor of HB 261. Look at the last line in the legislative history of the bill.

That doesn’t tell us whether she still plans to vote for it, though. Or maybe she is working for it behind-the-scenes.

Please join with me in asking Suzanne Bassi to issue a public statement of opposition to HB 261.

Rep. Bassi can be reached by email.

You can also call her.

Her office number in Springfield is (217) 782-8026.

Her office number in Palatine is (847) 776-1880.

If you receive a response from Rep. Bassi, please let me know.