Lanesskog's replacement will be 5th new member in 15 months

Lanesskog's replacement will be 5th new member in 15 months

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign school board member Stig Lanesskog's resignation leaves a vacancy the remaining board members will need to fill by mid-July.

Superintendent Judy Wiegand said she and other board members received Lanesskog's resignation late Thursday. It was effective immediately, she said.

Lanesskog did not respond to requests from The News-Gazette for comment.

The Illinois attorney general's office confirmed that it received a request for review Thursday, from someone asking the office to look into whether Lanesskog violated the Open Meetings Act through emails he sent to the school board in April and May.

The issue will be assigned for review, said attorney general spokeswoman Natalie Bauer.

The attorney general's office provided The News-Gazette with a copy of the request, with the name of the person who submitted it redacted.

It said Lanesskog "sent out emails that appear to have the effect of deciding Board action prior to a meeting," according to the document the attorney general's office provided.

"These emails included all the incoming members of the school board. The most obvious case of this is the setting union contract negotiation teams. ... Mr. Lanasskog (sic) sent out an email to all board members and based on individual conversations propose to set the membership of the (Champaign Federation of Teachers) and (Champaign Educational Support Professionals) contract negotiation teams," it went on. "It is my believe that this is a clear case of doing official business in a private forum.

"Additionally, (emails from Lanesskog indicate) a disturbing pattern by which (he) believes he an evade the Open Meetings Act by sending email to all members but instruction them to respond back only to him so as to not be 'doing business.' These statements indicate he has some knowledge of the Open Meetings Act, is aware of its boundaries (albeit incorrectly), and intends to 'conduct business' without conducting business," it said.

"The position that a board member can email all members asking them to take specific actions in relation to pending board votes but only notify that person back individually is a mistaken view that it's not 'conducting business.' It, more likely, indicates a 'consciousness of guilt.' This is akin to saying the Open meetings Act doesn't apply if one board members speaks in a room with the rest and the other board members take turns whispering in his ear."

The subject of Lanesskog's emails came up in early May, when Board President Laurie Bonnett mentioned them as a reason someone else suggested she become the board's next leader. She found the emails inappropriate, she said.

The News-Gazette filed a Freedom of Information Act request for emails among current and former school board members regarding the board's reorganization.

You can see a PDF version of the emails The News-Gazette received at http://tinyurl.com/unit4emails.

At the time, Lanesskog said he emailed the board members and asked them to let him know if they were interested in a leadership position on the board so he could let the group know without violating the Open Meetings Act. The idea was to let board members know about their options before voting, he said then.

Bonnett said Friday morning that she doesn't know why Lanesskog resigned and hadn't spoken with him since receiving his resignation.

School board policy says the board must notify the Regional Office of Education within five days of the vacancy and must select a new member to fill the open seat within 45 days. Because Lanesskog was serving a two-year term he was elected to in April, the person the board selects will finish out his term.

Through that process, "one of the things we're going to be is open and public and not behind closed doors," Bonnett said. "We want to make sure we're as up front and forthright as we can be, because we have a lot of stuff on our plate."

Lanesskog was first elected to the board in 2009 and ran for a two-year term in the recent election. The term was one left open by the resignations of then-board member Sue Grey.

The other two-year seat was filled by incumbent Ileana Saveley, whom the board selected last year to fill the seat left open when board member Greg Novak died in March 2012.

Chuck Jackson, who ran for school board in April and lost, said he would like to be considered for the vacant seat.

John Williams III, who lost his bid for school board in April by 10 votes, did not return a call asking whether he wanted to be considered.

Sections (2):News, Local
Topics (1):Education

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rsp wrote on June 08, 2013 at 8:06 am

She found the emails inappropriate, she said

If she found them to be inappropriate what did she do about it? The link goes to a series of them where he states he's not an expert in Open Meetings Act and states asks for whatever help to make it clearer. Her leadership skills led her to keep her mouth shut till she could replace him?

Everyone on the board is supposed to be a leader, show integrity.  Oh wait, isn't this the Champaign School Board? Why is it everyone keeps leaving?

C-U Townie wrote on June 08, 2013 at 4:06 pm

The irony of the situation is that both Lanesskog and Bonnett campaigned on the platform of transparency... and both were the first ones to toss that concept to the side. Whether he violated Open Act policies or not there is no reason to discuss any board business in that manner or that early.

Bonnett has already proven that she has no desire to be transparent. She couldn't reveal that the individual who wanted her as board president was Patricia Avery. Why did that need to remain secret? Now she's privy to information regarding behaviors SHE finds inappropriate and she says and does nothing? Yea, that's really someone I want leading an influential group of people. 

The community should be able to trust both its district administrators and its board members. When back door deals go on, individuals coincidentally are offered positions without evidence to show they deserve the positions, and board members are disappearing... it's a soap opera... not a well-run organization. Shame on Unit 4 for their recent activities... and shame on the board for being as equally guilty of poor decisions. And shame on those for being upset at the truth coming out (via the N-G). 

The school district and board cannot ask the community or their parents to trust in them or engage with them if they are unwilling to earn their respect first. Coming full circle the irony is that they may see engagement from parents and the public... but not in a way they would like. They'll have both groups questioning their decisions and behaviors, discussing it at length, and coming to negative conclusions. Oh. Wait. That's ALREADY happened. 

What a great example to set for the students. Students, you must not lie. You must be honest. And omission is the same as dishonesty. BUT... your district leaders cannot be asked to do the same. FOIA away Champaign citizens! 

Champaign Mom wrote on June 08, 2013 at 8:06 am

An Illinois Open Meetings Act training document prepared by the Illinois Association of School Boards (found here: http://www.iasb.com/pdf/schboardmeetings.pdf) offers this guidance on page 11:

2) E-mail messages sent to members of a public body via a distribution list where each recipient replies individually to the sender and the sender does not summarize or share those replies should not involve a violation of the Open Meetings Act. Of course, I'm not in a position to judge whether these communications may or may not have been in violation . . .I'm sure there is more to the context and situation than we know, but the statement above would lead a reasonable person to presume the emails were acceptable and not in violation.  I am disappointed to lose from the board Mr. Lanesskog's leadership, experience, and intelligent and reasoned perspective.  Thank you Mr. Lanesskog for the time and energy you gave over the years so that my children and all of the children in Unit 4 would have the best educational opportunities for which our community is willing to pay. Your leadership has been valued greatly by most in our community and we will miss your presence on the board. Shame on the current leadership of the board for not taking steps to ensure all members of the board we elected are able to perform their duties in a way that they feel supported and valued. If the new board leadership wants to handle internal communications in a different way than it has in the past, that's OK--but changing of procedures should have been handled by leading, teaching and modeling to create among board members a climate of mutual respect and trust. Gossiping and sharing *personal* correspondence with others isn't how I would like my board to operate. 

cjwinla wrote on June 08, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I see Stig's resignation 60 days after he ran for reelection as a huge detriment and distraction to our community. Why did he run ? An OMA violation, which by the way has not even been decided on, is not the end of the world.  Many elected officials continue to serve if they do catch a violation and clearly this email was no big deal. . He gave no reason for his decision, just quit and ran away. Maybe its because now he is no longer President he can't arrange jobs for his buddies on the Board, or give no bid contracts to politically connected companies. Over $400,000 in no bid contracts  was given out in the last few months to one such firm here locally while he was President. Says a lot about who he is to just quit with no comment at a critical time for the school district and our community. I hope the Board and Administration  stays focused and moves forward on the important issues ahead.

rsp wrote on June 08, 2013 at 3:06 pm

The president of the board can't "arrange jobs for his buddies or do no bid contracts". The school board works as a whole, so if those things have gone on the whole board has done them. I would assume he ran because he thought he could be of service. If you just want to gossip maybe you should find a fence. 

Bulldogmojo wrote on June 08, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Sad to see him go but much of the school district leadership is not unlike the University leadership, Petty, aimless and likely unfixable without an all encompassing overhaul. Don't really blame him for wanting out of it.