By Paul Mitchell
May 3, 2011
The Cost of Corruption – This is not something you will read for fun. But it’s something you must read, as a parent or taxpaying citizen. It’s a sordid story about probable crime and corruption where anyone would least expect to find it: In a suburban elementary school district.
In response to Freedom of Information Act requests, activists of the Lake County Tea Party organization have received over 300 pages of emails. The tale they tell is grim.
“Don’t Let Them Turn Us In” – The April 5th election was a hard-fought race in which five candidates (two incumbents and three challengers) were vying to fill three seats. The two incumbent candidates were strongly pro-union: Noting that the three challengers had been linked on the Lake County Tea Party website, incumbent candidate Mary Garcia wrote, “I think that all members of both Unions should be apprised of this information… There will be no collective bargaining with those 3 on the board. I am very afraid that Sue and I will not have the funds necessary to fight a ‘party’.” This email, sent to D46 Superintendent Ellen Correll, Assistant Superintendent Lynn Barkley, union leaders Christine Wilson and Diane Elfering, and fellow incumbent candidate Sue Facklam, was sent, like virtually all of the information we have, from Garcia’s email account in District 30 (Wed., Feb. 23rd, 11:34 AM), where Garcia works as a teacher and is president of the teachers’ union. Campaign fundraising activity like this, using D30 public resources have already landed Garcia in front of a review board scheduled to meet Monday, May 2nd.
In another telling email, Facklam, a voter registrar, writes about registering high school students to vote, and giving them gift cards: “Don’t let them turn us in; gifts to register to vote is probably illegal! I did offer Erika [Garcia’s 18-year-old daughter] more gift cards if she can gather up more friends!” (Wed., March 2nd, 10:14 AM to Mary Garcia at her D30 account.) It is a felony to offer remuneration to anyone for voting or registering to vote.
“Lie and pay me cash” – The emails reveal evidence of extensive contributions, expenditures, and in-kind contributions that, by law, ought to have triggered formation of a campaign committee, and been reported to the State Board of Elections. Garcia and Facklam’s campaign manager, Alex Finke, in one of the more egregious examples of their efforts cloak their campaign in secrecy, wrote, “Anything you spend counts towards the 1999.99 that you and Mary would be allowed to spend. The only way around it, would be to lie and pay me cash. Then I could claim that I am volunteering for you.” (Mon., March 7th, 3:55 PM, to Sue Facklam.)
The Superintendents Get Involved – D46 Superintendent Ellen Correll, who receives a compensation package worth over $200,000 per year to educate students, evidently spent quite a bit of her compensated time on election activities: “Mary Garcia is wondering how many signs or flyers you would take?” (Ellen Correll, on her D46 email account, to North Chicago D187 Superintendent Douglas Parks and to Mary Garcia on her D30 email account, Thurs., Mar. 10th, 3:24 PM.) As a custodian of federal and state education funds, Correll is prohibited by law from participating in political activity of any kind.
It’s important to recognize that this is not an article about politics. And it barely scratches the surface. This is not about whose policies are best and whose are wrongheaded. It’s about how elected officials and employees of School District #46, the elementary school district in Grayslake, Illinois, have abused their positions and their access to benefit themselves at taxpayers’ expense, and at the expense of the children entrusted to them.
To download and view the entire collection of emails in pdf format, click here or visit http://lakecountyteaparty.com.