Decatur school board releases audio from closed sessions

Local News

DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — The Decatur School Board voted to approve a resolution Tuesday night to release several recordings from closed sessions in Fall 2020.

This comes after the Illinois Attorney General found the Decatur Public School Board violated the Open Meetings Act during at least three closed sessions. However, they were not found in violation of the Act in regards to a discussion about a possible bonus for Assistant Superintendent Jeff Dase.

The audio is located at the following links:

On November 2, the AG’s Office asked the board to provide copies of the closed session verbatim recordings as well as closed session minutes for several other meetings. They received records from meetings on September 8, September 22, September 29, October 13 and October 27.

During five meetings under investigation, the board’s counsel said the main topics of the closed sessions were “the appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees” and “collective negotiating matters between the public body and its employees or their representatives, or deliberations concerning salary schedules for one or more classes of employees.”

Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office Deputy Bureau Chief Joshua M. Jones said that while the board held appropriate discussions regarding topics like employees and collective bargaining during most of the closed sessions, he said they also talked about some unauthorized topics. He stated that occurred during at least three of the five meetings under investigation.

“During the September 8, 2020, closed session, the Board improperly discussed making changes to its organizational chart to add a new position. The Board also improperly discussed the attributes it sought in any future candidates,” said Jones.

The AG’s Office explained that the discussion of those attributes fell out of the scope of the Open Meetings Act.

Then during a meeting on September 22, Jones said the board “improperly discussed whether to proceed with an agenda item and what substantive course of action to take on the underlying matter, which was outside the exceptions the Board cited to close the meeting (for specific employees and collective negotiating matters).”

In a meeting on October 27, the board talked about reorganizing the order of the meeting and its general structure during closed session. Jones stated they also discussed “political considerations and the ability to keep a document from being requested and disclosed pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.”

In the audio from the October 27th meeting, a woman can be heard saying the following:

“If Jeff was as tuned in to our town in our community as he should be, he would see the benefit of making sure that this current board is saving face going into an upcoming election so that some of the seats that are up for re election would have, you know, people reelected in them so that he knows that he has more people that know him, that are supportive of him that believe in what he’s doing moving forward.”

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