October 9, 2002 (posted Oct. 12)
Board Violates Open Meetings Law
by Stewart S Lilker
pressure of a failing school district, gangs, and illegal board
activity apparently got to Freeport school Board member Michael
Raab, as he went bonkers at the conclusion of the October 9, 2002
board planning meeting.
Raab, always excitable, became unhinged when your reporter asked
him about Board President, Sunday Cowardís motion to go into
executive session to discuss "board development."
Your reporter asked Raab if he could explain board development.
Raab said, "It is similar to a board retreat. Itís human relations
among board members. I donít know."
Your reporter told Raab, "This is not grounds for discussion in
executive session. This is not legal."
Raab replied, "We spoke to the attorney. He said it was all
Your reporter asked, "Who was the attorney?"
Raab became agitated, "If you are going to report this, Iím not
going to talk to you."
Your reporter reminded Raab that he was a resident and that it
would be nice if he answered.
Not wanting to waste anymore time with Raab, your reporter began
to walk away and he and Raab brushed against each other.
Incredibly, Raab froze; his eyes rolled back in his head; his
face became contorted; his eyes rolled forward and with a crazed
look he scretched at the top of his lungs, "You just assaulted me.
Iím going to have you arrested."
No one really paid attention to Raab. Your reporter, shocked at
this outburst, told him, "Youíre crazy, get out of my face," and
Prior to discussing this item with Raab, your reporter asked
board member Joe Cattano, "Can you tell me what is board
Cattano, with a grin on his face, replied, "Itís board
Board President Coward said, "Itís us learning. Itís development.
Itís a work shop."
The Law Shows the Board Acted Illegally
The propriety of discussions held during board retreats and
executive sessions is bound by Open Meetings Law (OML). Based on
court opinion and the opinions of Robert Freeman, the Executive
Director of Open Government, Coward and the rest of the board were
and are clearly out of bounds discussing board development at
retreats or executive sessions.
Regarding the Open Meetings Law, the Court of Appeals stated,
"Obviously, every thought, as well as every affirmative act of a
public official as it relates to and is within the scope of one's
official duties is a matter of public concern. It is the entire
decision-making process that the Legislature intended to affect by
the enactment of this statute"
Director Freeman has stated, "Based upon the direction given by
the courts, when a majority of a public body gathers to discuss
public business, in their capacities as members of the body, any
such gathering, in my opinion, would constitute a "meeting" subject
to the Open Meetings Law.
Freeportís Superintendent, Dr. Eric Eversley, as well as the
board, acting in concert, are continuing to do everything possible
to intentionally subvert and circumvent the true intent and meaning
of the Opening Meetings law.
The only honest answer to come out of Wednesdayís board meeting
came from board member Ron Ellerbe. When asked what was board
development, Ellerbe answered, "I have no idea."
Other Board Business
Superintendent and Board Ignore All Other Questions
The following questions were greeted by silence or incoherent
mumbling and grins by the board president, Sunday Coward:
How much over budget are you on the construction projects?
Who is paying for the lease with Holy Redeemer on the New Visions
The New Visions School was supposed to be completed by the
beginning of this school year. Why wasnít the building completed on
time and why was there no penalty assessed to the contractor for not
completing it on time?
How many new positions have been established by Superintendent
and what is there cost to the district?
How are residents supposed to ask questions about agenda items
when you donít give any information on the agenda?
Board member Joe Cattanoís remark that "the Freeport schools are
the best advertisement for private schools" has never been truer.