Internal Referendum Committee has questionable assistance
In this third and final (lengthy) article on Round Lake Area School District 116’s “damage control” efforts I will focus on who the main players are on both the Internal and External Referendum Committees. Let’s start by saying that most of us would assume that those who are putting together the package to present to voters in March or November (Internal Referendum Committee) would be various individuals from the school using plans, projected costs, time-frames, etc. provided by qualified vendors. You might expect an External Referendum Committee to be made up of parents, local business people, or concerned citizens looking for an improvement in existing facilities or personnel. You might find names that you recognize as current or former members of the External Referendum Committee such as Georgeann Duberstein, Judy (Jude) Armstrong, Jeanne Kearby, Jim A, DiDonato, Chris DeNapoli, or John Sonnenberg.
Wouldn’t you also expect to see school board members, school principals, guidance counselors, teachers, etc. on the Internal Referendum Committee? Would you expect to see someone heavily involved who works for a company that recently received over $500,000 in District funds from local taxpayers? Would you expect to see someone involved that is likely to be selling the referendum bonds and thus making a hefty commission? Welcome to the world of the Internal Referendum Committee and their “assistance” pair.
Here are some individual’s names that you might expect to see on the Internal Referendum Committee:
Dr. Constance Collins – Superintendent of Schools
Bill Johnston – Associate Superintendent for Business & Operations
Jay Kahn – Director of Fiscal Services
Nanci Radford – School Board President
(other Board members)
Dr. Donn Mendoza – High School Principal
Jerri Ryan – Director of Human Resources
Dr. Keely Roberts – Executive Director of Teaching and Learning
However, would you expect to see Tammie Beckwith Schallmo, Managing VP at PMA Securities (registered broker-dealer and investment advisor) deeply involved with the Internal Referendum Committee?. It’s quite obvious by her Title and the company she works for what the underlying interest is here.
PMA Financial Network, Inc., PMA Securities, Inc., and Prudent Man Advisors, Inc. operate under common
ownership. PMA Securities, Inc. is an SEC and MSRB registered broker-dealer and municipal advisor and a
member of FINRA and SIPC. Prudent Man Advisors, Inc. is an SEC registered investment adviser.
Another is Charlene (Charli) Johnsos, Executive Director/Project Executive Fanning Howey (District 116 architect) who works for a company that recently received over a half million dollars from District 116 including $350,000 for the architectural drawings you see at the referendum presentations. Wouldn’t you think her duties would be limited to just presenting the firms assessment report to the Board instead of being involved in the referendum? Do you see a conflict in either of these two individuals involvement when it comes to the referendum itself?
I can’t help wonder why these two individuals are tasked with the job of pushing through the referendum other than the money involved for their firms. Below are a number of emails that these two individuals passed among the two group, including to Superintendent Dr. Constance Collins, Bill Johnston, Heather Bennett, and Georgeann Duberstein who happens to chair the External Referendum Committee. You will also see that Dr. Constance Collins was cc’d in many of the emails and thus was well aware of what was going on even though their hired legal counsel is trying to paint a picture that only one salaried employee, Heather Bennett (Executive Assistant to Superintendent Dr. Constance Collins), may have inadvertently performed some illegal activities. If you believe that, there are people out there with bridges to sell you.
Below are several emails indicating that Tammie Beckwith Schallmo and Charlene (Charli) Johnsos, who have a vested interest in the school bond referendum passing are calling most of the shots as far back as the March ballot that voters rejected.
I think that you can now see how the two committees were “Joined at the Hip” so I will end with one final email that shows the securities dealer informing Superintendent Dr. Collins that SHE will be the go-to person for the Chair of the External Referendum Committee
In addition to including and sharing information with the Chair of the External (pro)Referendum Committee, school principals were being asked to suggest at least TEN names of parents with whom they felt might be interested in being on the External Referendum Committee (an acknowledged violation). The school board also had two board members volunteer to sit on each committee, being careful that no more than two were on either committee since it would violate the Open Meetings Act.
Internal Referendum Steering Committee
Annette Negrete McGinley
External Referendum Committee
You will see in the following email that what goes on at the Internal meeting is shared with the External (pro)Referendum Committee.
Multiple meetings were set up between Dr. Collins and the Chair of the External (pro)Referendum Committee, being careful not to hold them on school property (Panera Bread was chosen) and the lists from the Principals was given the cute name of The Power of Ten
Not satisfied with the number of contacts being provided by Bennett from the surveys and the names from the school Principals, the External (pro)Referendum Chair asks for involvement from other groups.
“Because Ms. Bennett’s conduct, and that of several other employees mentioned in this report, was motivated by a desire to help her employer and reflected a lack of proper training shared by nearly the entire administrative team, we do not recommend any discipline for Ms. Bennett. Rather, if the Board wishes to move forward with placing a bond proposition on the ballot in the November election, we recommend providing specific training to Board members, administrators and all staff concerning the limitations on the use of compensated time and District resources in connection with the referendum and general training regarding the laws and policy related to both the Election Interference Act and the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act. Specifically, we recommend that the Board place an action item on a meeting agenda to order that such training be provided and to affirm the Board’s commitment to the principles set forth in Policy 2.105. District employees should be reminded that they are not to allow District resources or their compensated time to be used improperly in support of (or for that matter, in opposition to) the referendum. In addition, we recommend that the flyer remain off the District websites and social media and not be re-posted.”
Like I stated before, if you believe that Ms. Bennett acted solely on her own, without the knowledge of her boss, Superintendent Dr. Constance Collins, there are people out there selling bridges that you might be interested in buying. Hopefully the States Attorney’s office rejects the excuse of “I didn’t know it wasn’t allowed” and moves forward with its own investigation and prosecutes everyone involved for any and all Election Law violations.
Link to Part One: External Committee Ties Puts District 116 in Damage Control Mode
Kink to Part Two: Round Lake Area School District 116 “Damage Control” Part 2
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