That’s according to MacMurray College social work professor Emily Ralph, who says she filed a review with the public access counselor of the Attorney General’s office last Friday after the meeting was held to take the first steps to look at objections filed against nominating petitions for school board.
The meeting was held a day after school board candidate and “Save Our Schools” organizer Anthony Stephens filed an objection to the candidacies of current board president Mindy Olson and candidate Matthew Johnson.
Ralph, who is working with the “Save Our Schools” group and is pushing for a ward-based representation system for the school board, cites language in the Open Meetings Act dealing with what constitutes a true emergency. She says what school officials held last week wasn’t that.
“Typically, a bona-fide emergency is something like a blizzard or a tornado [or] an act of God that would necessitate a lack of notice and the need to appropriate funds that were sufficient to address that unforeseen event, necessitating an emergency meeting,” says Ralph.
“In this case, there was time to give adequate 48 hour-notice and an agenda for the public [for] something that’s important as an electoral review board being selected in a very highly-political race.”
At last Thursday's meeting, District 117 attorney Allen Yow stated the board had no choice but to meet when they did in order to be in compliance with election code.
The district has filed notice that a three-member electoral board panel including school board members Steve Cantrell and Craig Albers will hold a hearing on the objection next Tuesday at 6 p.m. Ralph says the goal of her filing isn’t necessarily for the school board to have to start the process over.
“I think that we need to have increased expectations that the district follow [the] Open Meetings Act, and that that should be the norm,” she says.
“Let’s say they had the meeting. What if someone else besides me had filed the complaint? They would still be potentially in a situation where they had voided what occurred at that meeting, and then they lost all of that money that the district spent in attorney’s fees. It’s just simply bad practice.”
Ralph says the Attorney General’s office will make a decision on the review by next Wednesday. Officials at the office were not immediately able to confirm the case filing yesterday afternoon.