Hinsdale D86 Confirms Secret Meeting With Lawyer
Hinsdale D86 Confirms Secret Meeting With Lawyer

Hinsdale D86 Confirms Secret Meeting With Lawyer

HINSDALE, IL – In a roundabout way, Hinsdale High School District 86 acknowledged Friday that current and incoming board members held a secret meeting with a top educational law firm last year.

In February, the board unanimously approved Chicago-based Robbins Schwartz as its new general counsel. The board did so without a competitive process.

Former board members Kay Gallo and Debbie Levinthal revealed last month that a private meeting was held before May 3 with Robbins Schwartz.

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Current members have not returned messages about the secret meeting.

In an email Monday, the district’s spokesman, Alex Mayster, said the response to the public records request would serve as the district’s response at this time. He said the district would not comment further.

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May 3 was the board’s organizational meeting, following an election in which voters elected three new members.

In a public records request, Patch sought all correspondence among board members and interim superintendents about a private meeting that took place before May 3 with an attorney from Robbins Schwartz.

In response, the district on Friday released two emails from Gallo in September. One was sent to member Terri Walker and the other to Asma Akhras. Gallo also emailed the entire board a month later, about 2½ weeks before she resigned in frustration.

The district blacked out the three messages. It justified its redactions by citing a few exceptions under the state’s open records law – the privacy of information about specific students, preliminary drafts and the secrecy of attorney-client communications.

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In January, interim Superintendent Raymond Lechner twice indicated in meetings the district would issue a request for proposals for legal services.

Later in the second meeting, the board voted for Robbins Schwartz, which had already done limited work for the district since May. Members did not explain the reversal of their apparent plan.

In hiring Robbins Schwartz, the board cast aside its decade-old law firm, Itasca-based Hodges Loizzi.

If the board had sought proposals, members could have examined the offerings and prices of various firms specializing in serving schools. No law requires the district to undergo such a process.

Twelve days after a new majority took control last May, members hired Robbins Schwartz to help with the ouster of then-Superintendent Tammy Prentiss. Member Terri Walker dissented, while Asma Akhras was absent.

In September, members hired the firm again to look into a 6-day-old “message with parent concerns.”

In an email to Patch last month, Gallo said she could confirm the “five original remaining board members at the time of my resignation knew of my and other board members’ participation in a meeting with an attorney from Robbins prior to the reorganization meeting on May 3rd.”

She did not say who did not know. Given Walker voted against Robbins Schwartz originally, she may have been a member who was not in the loop. She did not return a message for comment.

Gallo said that based on the attendance, the board did not violate the state Open Meetings Act. This law bans unadvertised meetings involving a majority of a public body’s members.

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