Perhaps the title should be “MCC Board Holding Secret Retreat” because as I write this McHenry County Board members, President Vicky Smith and Illinois Community College Association facilitator Gary Davis are meeting in the college’s Shah Center in McHenry.
The meeting is scheduled to run from 8 to noon.
Sustenance for the four-hour meeting consisted of quiche, a tray of more bacon than could probably have been eaten by the students at the school for those who had received tickets meeting in another room in the building, cookies, a fruit plate, assorted pastries, bottled water and soft drinks.
One member invited me to share in the food, but I had already eaten oatmeal at home.
There was public comment, so I took the opportunity to review the email that I sent to each of the Trustees about the mistaken assumption about property tax assessment growth built into the MCC budget.
The holdover members seemed not to have checked their college email accounts, so had not read it.
Because of that and because of the importance that readers understand the wildly excursiveness of 3.29% assumption for new construction last year, the let me reprint the email’s contents. The email was originally sent to MCC Public Information Officer Christina Haggerty very early Friday morning. There has been no reply.
Last night Bob Tenuta said I should pose this question to you and you would refer it to him and he would answer it.
I asked why the college administration was assuming that property tax revenues would increase 4.99% considering past new growth figures gave no reason to do so.
I include the new growth for MCC over the last ten years, information which was not shared with the Board:
So, why is MCC assuming a 4.99% increase, which is 3.29 percentage points more than the 1.7% hike the Tax Cap allows local governments to capture?
I pointed out that I would have had my wrists slapped in my first job by my supervisor at the United States Bureau of the Budget had I made an assumption as unrealistic as the college’s that there was 3.29% (I think it was too early for me to recall the correct number) in new construction during 2012. The actual number is not yet available because the assessment process is not completed, but anyone can tell that growth last year was not as high as it was before the economic downturn. That’s the last time new growth was more than 3%. That was seven years ago.
Next I asked the Board not to go behind closed doors to meet in secret. I was the only outsider in the room.
I told them that I had never been in a body covered by the Open Meetings Act (the General Assembly partisan caucuses meet in secret all the time), I didn’t know what I would do if I were in a closed session when something was being illegally discussed.
There were two alternatives, it seemed to me:
- Walking out of a meeting where the topic should be discussed only in an open meeting
- Staying in the meeting, taking notes and sending a complaint to the Public Access Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office
Chairman Ron Parrish then asked for a motion to close the meeting. That was made by holdover member Mary Miller and seconded by holdover member Cynthia Kisser (I think. It was either her or holdover member Linda Liddell.)
Kisser gave her reasons why she wanted a closed meeting. I caught a good deal of it>
“As Board members we do have a lot (at which point Parrish’s cell phone rang) of responsibility…
“We have to balance a lot of interests.
“Inevitably a decision we make…may satisfy one and not another.
“[My} experience with retreats have been extremely beneficial.
“I believe this Board needs to have a better [sense] of cooperation.
“[Among the] competing interests there are those who want us to go beyond [what is required by law].
“[If we talk in public, we are] less able to freely work together in team building.”
Miller was next to state her reasons for wanting an executive, that is, secret session.
“I really don’t feel comfortable to be in a retreat with Cal Skinner here.
“He has a tendency to distort some of the facts in my opinion.”
On the other side of the table were the newly-elected MCC Trustees, Chris Jenner, Molly Walsh and Tom Wilbeck.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s closed or not.
“I’m going to say the same thing.”
With no one having anything else to say, Board Secretary Jenner called the roll.
Voting to close the meeting were holdover members Kisser, Liddell and Miller.
Voting to keep the meeting open were newcomers Jenner, Walsh and Wilbeck.
Chairman Parrish broke the tie by siding with the holdovers.
The doors and window shades were closed.