A divided Rock Island-Milan School Board agreed Tuesday to release a recording of a closed-door meeting held last week, although members maintained their actions were allowed under law.
However, the district did not immediately release a copy of the tape, because officials had to wait for the board's approval, according to William Cleaver, board president. Instead, it will be made available today, he said.
Board members voted 4-3 to make the closed-door discussion public, despite concerns expressed by some board members about setting a precedent that could damage the board's credibility.
Those who voted to release the tape, which contained a discussion about a $30,000 consulting contract for Superintendent Rick Loy's wife, Carol, said they favored doing so because there was nothing on it that couldn't be said publicly. They were Cleaver, Linda Dothard, Earl Strupp and Jim Veasey.
Board members Jerry Tutskey, David Rockwell and James Bishop voted against the measure. Rockwell and Tutskey were not present for the closed door session last week.
"(I received) e-mails suggesting we were taking action inappropriately and we were hiding behind the executive meeting guise," Rockwell said. "If you really believe that then when the election rolls around vote us out. You have to have confidence in your elected officials when we are behind closed doors that we are taking on very important issues that we must get to the bottom of."
Prior to the board's decision, the Illinois Attorney General's office said Tuesday independent contractors are not employees under the exceptions allowed in the state's open meetings law.
The board met behind closed doors for less than 30 minutes July 28 to discuss three contracts for services, which they then unanimously approved in open session. The three included a consulting contract for Carol Loy, who retired from the district June 30. Under it, she will receive $300 a day for as many as 100 days this coming school year to help building curriculum and train teachers at the new Rock Island Center for Math and Science. No other candidates were considered.
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"The purpose of the Open Meetings Act is to ensure that members of the public have the opportunity to witness and participate in discussions by public bodies regarding public business," said Robin Ziegler, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office. "In a situation such as this, the public may have a genuine interest and concern to be privy to the details of this type of contract."
Ziegler said violations of the Open Meetings Act are Class C misdemeanors, meaning violators found guilty would be subject to as many as 30 days in jail.
Cleaver maintained the board's actions were within the law according to the district's attorney, who members contacted prior to the meeting. However, when asked why the board held their discussion privately if they didn't say anything that couldn't be said publicly, he said, "That's a good question."
"I do not have a problem releasing the tapes," said Dothard. "If the perception is that you have done something and the process was tainted, then it will lead to a lot of discussion. That's what brought us to this today. People come up to us and talk about dissatisfaction with the board. I stand by my vote."