GENEVA – Geneva School District 304 released the name of an employee the board recommended to be dismissed June 24 following an open records request.
The employee was identified as Terrie Harrington, a kindergarten instructional assistant at Heartland Elementary School.
The school board met in closed session for 90 minutes that night for an employee dismissal hearing, officials said, then voted to recommend dismissal, only identifying the person as “Employee A,” an apparent violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act.
Officials later refused to name the employee, prompting the Kane County Chronicle to file a Freedom of Information Act request seeking that name, as well as names of other employees the board recommended for dismissal since Jan. 1, 2010, to the present.
In its response, the district provided the names of 342 employees released from employment for various reasons, including a reduction in force, general layoff and the elimination of the employee’s position.
All but three already were named in the board packets of various school board meetings, as well as in the minutes of those meetings, records show. The three unnamed employees’ dismissal dates correlate with those who were recommended for dismissal without being named, following a closed session, records show.
In addition to Harrington, the district also released the names of Deborah Regelbrugge, a special education assistant at the preschool, who was fired April 22, and Daniel Benjamin, a maintenance worker at Geneva Middle School South, who was fired Nov. 28, 2012.
According to the minutes of the April 22 school board meeting, following a closed session for employee disciplinary action, the board voted in open session “based upon the evidence presented to the Board of Education in executive session, to terminate the employment of ‘Employee A,’ effective April 22, 2013,” without naming the employee.
According to the minutes of the Nov. 26, 2012, school board meeting, following a closed session for employee disciplinary action, the board voted in open session “to accept the administrative recommendation regarding the dismissal of a specific employee of the public body, effective immediately,” without naming the employee.
Attempts to reach Harrington, Regelbrugge and Benjamin were not successful.
The Open Meetings Act requires that, “Final action shall be preceded by a public recital of the nature of the matter being considered and other information that will inform the public of the business being conducted.”
The Kane County Chronicle also filed a request for review from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s public access counselor.
Madigan’s office responded with a July 9 letter to board president Mark Grosso stating, in part, “This office has determined that further inquiry is warranted.”
The letter, signed by Assistant Attorney General Robert Olmstead, states the office seeks a copy of the agenda, open session minutes, video and audio recordings, together with a response to the allegation that the board’s action did not comply with the Open Meetings Act.
Officials of other local school districts said they routinely disclose the names of employees being hired and fired in their monthly employment reports.
A spokesman for the Illinois Association of School Boards said while the organization advises districts to consult their attorneys, it also recommends school boards name an employee being recommended for dismissal in order to fulfill the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.
School officials were unavailable for comment Friday.