News Brief

Nomaan Merchant

The Illinois Attorney General’s office has received a formal complaint regarding alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act by Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

Public Access Counselor Terry Mutchler said the state will notify the district of its findings as early as the end of this week.

The state received a letter from the Evanston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People last Thursday asking it to investigate if school board members improperly discussed district business privately through e-mail.

In a heated meeting March 20, Board President Mary Rita Luecke introduced a proposal to create an African-centered curriculum pilot program for two grades in a non-school location. Luecke’s plan was smaller than two other models previously debated by the board.

Luecke sent her proposal to other board members via e-mail the day before the meeting to decide the pilot’s fate.

Some board members and community representatives accused Luecke of trying to tamper with a months-long effort to create the pilot. But Luecke said she was trying to reach a “compromise” because she thought the other proposals would fail.

The exchange of e-mails by board members may violate the Open Meetings Act, which prohibits discussion of public business by a “majority of a quorum,” or three board members in District 65.

According to board member Jonathan Baum, who helped design a 2003 district policy about e-mail exchanges, e-mail conversations limited to two people are not prohibited by the Act.

A board member can send out a proposal to all the board members electronically, but as long as another board member responds only to the sender of the e-mail, no violation would occur, Baum said.

Baum said he believes board members acted properly.

Evanston NAACP President George Mitchell said the “potential” for wrongdoing exists, but that the NAACP plans no further action until the state finishes its own investigation.

“If what (the District) did was OK, then it’s OK, but if they did something illegal, the public should know about it,” Mitchell said.