An Ironic, If Not Bizarre, MCC Board Meeting

In government the relevant question is who are the winners and who are the losers.

At Thursday night’s McHenry County College meeting, all the trustees were both.

Bizarre, one might conclude, but that’s how I saw it.

The board majority (George Lowe, Carol Larson, Mary Miller and Barbara Walters) moved ahead on censuring Donna Kurtz and now ex-Board President Scott Summers.

The censure vote on both was 4-3. In addition, student trustee Katie Claypool voted with the majority. Summers resigned his board presidency after his censure, but stressed he was remaining on the college board. Glosson is now board president.

But, before voting on the censure resolutions–
what I thought would be the most significant action taken–the board switched the agenda around so that no public comment was allowed until after those votes.

You can imagine that did not please the taxpayers in the audience.

The subsequent public comment period actually was not as brutal as I expected. But no one stood up in support of action the MCC board had just taken or the baseball stadium.

If those speaking were not representative of the MCC’s constituents, then they were certainly representative of those who have intense feelings on the subject.

Leona Nelson, a former Crystal Lake Park Board member, who was censured by her board and not allowed to attend her last board meeting when plaques of appreciation are usually handed out, presented Kurtz and Summers with a red rose and an American flag.

I’d show you a photo, but I have downloading problems (which Google finally fixed.)

A long discussion was held on whether to extend the college’s option on the 57 acres that Tartan Drive straddles. I thought there was a good bit of misunderstanding of what the almost passed Crystal Lake watershed ordinance is going to allow to be built.

Some on the board did not seem to understand that if land is 4 feet above the normal (not the wet year’s, as I would prefer) water table, property in the watershed can be built upon. Indeed, the last page of the manual says as much as 100% of such land can be built upon.

That’s subject to the storm water management ordinance, which limits coverage to 70%, watershed adviser Gary Schaefer has pointed out.

I really wonder if anyone at the college has read the watershed manual, which I expect the Crystal Lake city council will pass next month after beefing up enforcement.

In any event, the board voted to seek extension of its purchase contract until April.

Normally, discussions like this would be held behind closed doors, but apparently Summers insisted at Monday night meetings that they henceforth be held in public. There really was no reason for the public not to hear the details.

Toward the end of the meeting, just censured Trustee Donna Kurtz talked about the need for more transparency and how the feasibility study (that McHenry County Blog revealed and I have been harping about not being able to see since March 26th) should be released.

She made this motion:

“that we release the feasibility study documents with the associated evaluation documents with trade secrets redacted and identifying the areas (sections) that are going to be updated, that this be released within 10 calendar days.

“We have to do this,” Kurtz said.

Scott Summers, the other censured board member, seconded her motion.

“I don’t mind giving out some documents, but a lot are still a work in progress,” Lowe said. “I don’t want people out there second guessing them, but I don’t want a zillion opinions. It’s not gospel. It’s not set in stone.”

“I think the existing study is old enough not to be of much value,” MCC President Walt Packard said. “That information is not in the current study.”

Packard was more quiet at the meeting than I previously remember.

“Perhaps I was a little ahead of my time,” Summers observed, after suggesting he consider the discussion “wry.”

“A lot of what we are discussing was what I was discussing at the Crystal Lake City Council meeting…That’s no small irony.

“I’m very upset about it,”he emphasized.

“These documents are certainly outdated,” Kurtz added. “Given the public has paid for these things…I question that we as an organization need to be far more transparent …by identifying those areas that are trade secrets.

“It allows us to be open about our decision-making.

“We’ve had requests from various politicians,” she revealed.

George Lowe inquired if the time were “reasonable.”

MCC President Walt Packard indicated that it was, but pointed out that a confidentiality agreement had been signed with Equity One’s Mark Houser, the author of the study of his good buddy Pete Heitman’s baseball team and stadium projections.

“I don’t know who has the confidentiality agreement,” MCC attorney Sandy Kerrick said. (That seemed a bit strange. Wouldn’t you think college officials would run something like withholding information from the public through an attorney before agreeing to it?)

Kerrick indicated it would be up to whomever signed the agreement with the college (presumably Houser) to agree to the study’s release.

“I think he’d be willing to do that,” Packard said.

Considering his project could very well go down the baseball field drain, I imagine Houser might be willing to trade a little privacy for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he stands to make only if the project proceeds.

Thursday night the confidentiality agreement was brought to the public’s attention and, apparently, to some board member’s attention by Jane Collins, who has been filing lots of Freedom of Information requests.

“I’m a little embarrassed to find out about the confidentiality agreement today,” Kurtz said.

“It was in the original agreement,” Packard observed.

“I’m a little worried about giving out erroneous information,” Trustee Carol Larson observed.

“I’d call it ‘dated,’” Packard replied.

All voted for the resolution to release the long-held secret document, except Trustees Larson and Mary Miller, a CPA by profession.

Miller, along with Summers earlier professed to have done due diligence on the baseball stadium project, but when I asked for what evidence led them to that conclusion in a Freedom of Information request, I received nothing.

Summers said starting in July (at least that’s what I think he said) he advocated taking a second look.

Here’s the reference to Crystal Laker Miller’s judgment in the April 26, 2007, minutes:

“Ms. Miller referred to her CPA standing and stated that all the figures are in order for us to go ahead with this.”

Ten days from last night is Sunday, November 4th. I guess we’ll have to wait until Monday or, maybe, President Packard will just stick a pile of them outside of his office door on Sunday.

Summers and Kurtz got censured, but it looks like they ended up winning a significant victory for transparency.

Who knows?

Maybe the MCC board will follow Carpentersville School District 300 and Huntley School District 158 and even put their board packets on the internet so ordinary mortals can see what will be considered before board meetings.

Kurtz did say she wanted more information on Freedom of Information requests. Freedom of Information officer Marlene Kopala said she had three loose leaf binders full of requests that had been filed since the baseball stadium proposal had surfaced. (No, she didn’t use the phrase “baseball stadium.”)

I’d suggest the board also ask those filing the Freedom of Information requests to give their side of issue.

= = = = =
Google finally fixed its picture posting function on Blogger, so on 11-9-7, I’m finally posting pictures I took 10-25-7.

A picture of the board that censured Donna Kurtz and Scott Summers is on top.

Below is a picture of part of the crowed audience section. This was after they learned they would not be able to speak before the censure motions. (As usual, you can click on the images and enlarge them.)

Next is Leona Nelson presenting Donna Kurtz with a rose and a small American Flag.

Below is a map showing the 57 acres which the college wants to buy. You can see how close they are to the train tracks, where a station is contemplated.

The only picture in this article not taken the night of October 25th is that of Donna Kurtz. I was too busy taking notes of the discussion to release the baseball stadium feasibility study to get any then.

Below is George Lowe, then, Scott Summers and Walt Packard.

Jane Collins, who dug out the feasibility agreement’s confidentiality agreement, is seen next.

MCC Board member Mary Miller is seen sitting in her chair.

MCC attorney Sandy Kerrick and Freedom of Information Officer Marlene Kopola are seen in the bottom photo.

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