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District 86 School Board Moving Forward to Censure Member

The move comes after the board was accused of bond fraud by member Dianne Barrett.

The school board is moving forward to censure one of its members.

This after member Dianne Barrett sent an email to DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Feb. 14, requesting an investigation into the district's issuing approximately $15.4 million in bonds to pay for, among other things, air conditioning at and .

Barrett's email said it was her "firm belief that a fraud is being knowingly and intentionally perpetrated" by the five board members who voted in favor of , as well as by District 86 Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Wahl; business manager Jeff Eagan; Chapman and Cutler, LLP, the district's bond counsel; and George K. Baum & Company, the bond sale's underwriter.

Barrett had said during the Feb. 6 discussion on issuing the bonds that she thought it was illegal for the district to ask for working-cash bonds when it was clear the money would go towards capital improvements.

“The working cash funds are going to be used for air conditioning—that’s deceiving to taxpayers,” said Barrett at the time.

According to Kay Gallo, one of the board members accused of committing bond fraud in Barrett's email, the bond counsel said Barrett misinterpreted the school code.

School board members discussed the issue of censure briefly at its meeting Monday night and agreed to contact the district's attorney to draft a resolution to censure Barrett.

Members agreed to continue the discussion at its April 23 meeting, because member Richard Skoda was not present to be a part of the discussion. Barrett also had not yet arrived at the time the issue was being discussed during the meeting.

Gallo said the censure is needed in order to address allegations of a conspiracy to commit fraud.

"[The censure] is a formal reprimand," said Gallo. "It doesn't do anything. You're just stating for the record that what she said was untrue and baseless. We're standing up and saying there was no conspiracy."

Gallo said Barrett had her chance to voice concerns during the meeting in which the bonds were discussed, and she did.

Patch talked with Barrett after the meeting to request a comment on the situation. Barrett said she could not comment on the issue at the moment, because she was not there when it was discussed during the meeting.

"I wouldn't even waste any breath commenting on an issue like that," said Barrett.

Barrett did, however, say she was open to being contacted by press on Tuesday after she had been informed of the content of Monday's discussion and would respond with a comment then if she had one.

This is not the first time Barrett has been censured by the school board. According to Gallo, Barrett was censured by the board in 2009.

"In both of those cases, she stated her opinion in the meeting, which was fine," said Gallo. "She was interviewed by a reporter after the meeting [in 2009,] and she said we were money laundering. That was based on the $4 million for the turf fields."

Gallo said the censure will not affect Barrett's ability to express her opinion at school board meetings or to the press.

"We're not saying she doesn't have a right to her opinion," said Gallo, "[but] you can't accuse people of illegal activity."

The first reading of the resolution to censure will take place at the board's April 23 meeting as an informational item. Any action taken on the resolution will then take place at the board's May 7 meeting.

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