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D86 President to Dianne Barrett: Pay the District Back

Board President Dennis Brennan asked board member Dianne Barrett to pay more than $50,000 in legal fees incurred by the district in her lawsuit against him and Superintendent Nicholas Wahl.

The fallout from a judge’s decision Friday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a board member against the president of the board of education and the superintendent spread over Monday night’s school board meeting like an angry dark cloud.

Board member Dianne Barrett had sought a court order to gain access to documents pertaining to the district’s special education program.

But , citing restrictions delineated in the Illinois Student Records Act. Board President Dennis Brennan, named as a defendant in the suit along with Superintendent Nicholas Wahl, passed out a copy of the judge’s order to board members Monday night during their regular monthly meeting at .

“This case cost us over $50,000 to defend,” Brennan said. “In the six-and-a-half years I’ve been on this board, I’ve never seen any other board member waste $50,000 in one swoop.”

“I did not request that the district spend $50,000,” Barrett responded. “We have a law firm that I believe, at times, has charged the district more than I would anticipate.”

Brennan read a portion of the order, which said a school official has a right to access the type of student records Barrett sought only if the official has a “current, demonstratable educational or administrative interest in the student.”

“That’s exactly what I had,” Barrett said, “an interest in the student.”

“This says you don’t,” said Brennan, referring to the judge’s order. “Thanks for wasting 50 grand. … I’ll ask you to now pay the district back.”

Board member Richard Skoda took exception to Brennan passing out of copies of the judge’s order.

“Mr. Brennan, I would hope you’d make a precedent, when all legal matters are concluded that the district is involved [in], of also alerting the board and the audience and also posting all of them on the website, and not just cherry-picking … issues.”

“Well, I could do that,” Brennan said. “I can tell you we have a very good record of, when we’re sued, winning.”

Brennan said he hoped this would be the end of the litigation on the matter, noting that an appeal would cost the district additional legal fees. Barrett said she had not decided whether to appeal.

“I have 30 days to make my decision,” she noted.

Barrett once again defended her decision to seek a court order giving her access to the documents, saying there were “a lot of unhappy parents” of special education students in the district.

“I decided it was in the best interest of myself to find out what the problems were in the special ed department,” she said. “I hope that this board will now have a discussion as to whether we look at those documents as board members before I decide whether I’m going to appeal or not.”

Steve Woodward November 28, 2011 at 05:21 AM
The burden of proof is on the tax assessor. If the assessor does his/her job, challenges will be the exception. In those rare cases, the assessor should defend his/her assessment apart from the expense of a third-party attorney.
artie p November 29, 2011 at 02:10 AM
I wouldn't trust ms barrett with any specific student information and find it odd that of a 7 mbr brd that this 1 woman who appears unstable must have names and identifying info. Disturbing that she's the only 1 feeling that need among admin staff and board.
Judgehinsdale November 29, 2011 at 11:20 PM
Waying all the facts, I'm going to have to go along with Artie G, Dan Leigh, Sue Pircon, Richard Janson, and who am I forgetting, oh yes of course, the JUDGE. End of Story people, the JUDGE ruled on it and your opinion does not matter. Tell her to pay up and quit suing the district. By the way, has she sued the district before? It makes me wonder about people like woody who claim they are for the taxpayers but then turn a blind eye to Miss Barrett's actions. Woody may not like the board president or superintendent but at least they are consistent.
Joe O'Donnell November 30, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Thanks for the great comments, everybody. I'd like to re-iterate that Patch very much values FULL NAMES of commenters. I hope everyone who's posting anonymously considers attaching their names to their comments. Thanks!
Carol Klener Jablonski January 24, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Dan Leigh raises some points that I agree with. I would not want my child's name revealed and available to Ms. Barrett's whim. I ask that all of the Board members attend some team building seminar as well as some orientation as to their duties. All of the Board members; this includes Ms. Barrett. You all need to work together for the betterment of the district.

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