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.