GENEVA – Batavia resident Robert McQuillan withdrew one complaint against the Geneva Education Association before the State Board of Elections could make a ruling, which was expected at its May 21 meeting. He had filed that complaint March 15 alleging the teachers union spent more than $5,000 on its mailers in support of three Geneva District 304 school board candidates in the April 2 consolidated election.
However, he had filed a new complaint on April 26, alleging that the teachers union never formed a political action committee, though it received $8,420 from the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education, the Illinois Education Association’s PAC.
McQuillan, formerly of Geneva, is known there for his outspoken activism on property taxes.
“I could not prove they spent more than $5,000,” McQuillan said about his first complaint. “The hearing administrator was going to recommend that it be dismissed, so I withdrew it.”
In text message, GEA President Kevin Gannon stated that McQuillan's first complaint was false because the union had not spent $5,000 when he filed that complaint.
"We did eventually exceed the $5,000 threshold and did form a committee when that occured," Gannon's text stated.
Geneva Educators 4 Students received its first $3,852 from the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education on March 25 and an additional $2,000 on March 29, records show.
They registered the political action committee March 21 with the State Board of Elections.
McQuillan said his second complaint is based on the 2019 first quarter reports filed by Geneva Educators 4 Students, IPACE, Friends of Katherine Frye and Alicia Saxton for school board.
“The complaint is an in-depth review of the inner working of these committees and how the funds were mixed between them and the Geneva Education Association,” McQuillan said. “The Illinois Political Action Committee for Education gave the Geneva Education Association $8,420 and they never formed a political action committee. You must organize a committee once you receive or spend $5,000.”
GEA President Kevin Gannon is also the chairman of Geneva Educators 4 Students.
State records of the quarterly report show Geneva Educators 4 Students received and spent $12,403.04, including giving $2,000 each to Alicia Saxton for School board and Robert L. Cabeen.
“They broke election law,” McQuillan said. “According to records, they spent $12,000 to get three people elected to a board of education when the most you would spend is $200 on signs and that’s it. If they’re spending that much money, they are going to expect something back.”
McQuillan said unions were trying to get their supporters elected to local school boards.
McQuillan pointed to the 48-page Illinois Education Association School Board Election and Campaign Handbook, as proof of his assertion.
“The union pushing a candidate is not illegal,” McQuillan said. “But is it morally correct or ethically correct for supporters of the teachers union to also be directly involved in a lot of discussions in things that are directly related to the teachers.”
In response, Gannon issued a statement: “Everything that happens inside our classrooms is governed by a decision made outside of it. In order to make sure our students have the best education possible, the Geneva Education Association strongly believes that as citizens and community members, educators should vote and be involved in their local election process.”
Candidates Frye, Cabeen and Saxton addressed the issue of school board members being beholden to the teachers union that helped get them elected by saying their decisions would be independent and based on what was best for the district.
Cabeen did not have to form a political action committee because he did not receive nor spend the required $5,000 threshold, according to state law.
Cabeen said he appreciated the union's financial support, but said it was not why he got elected.
“I got elected by walking 17 miles a day and I knocked on so many doors,” Cabeen said. “It coincided with spring break, so I was able to talk to many people by approaching it like a serious job. That is how I got my bump. If you are running in a field of nine and there will only be three winners, that is what you have to do.”