SOUTH HOLLAND | A Cook County Circuit Court judge issued a temporary restraining order against Judith Gibbs, the newest member of Thornton Township School District 205, saying she cannot participate in meetings because the board committed a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
The violation occurred at the Aug. 2 board meeting when the public participation agenda item was omitted and a school district resident filed suit, saying the omission is a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
The judge agreed, and issued an order against the appointment of Gibbs to the open board position. School Board attorney Anthony Bass said the public participation agenda item was indeed left off of the Aug. 2 agenda, resulting in the violation. That means all action taken at that meeting was void, including the appointment of Gibbs to the open board position.
Judge Peter Flynn’s order from Sept. 14 means that Gibbs cannot take her seat on the board, cannot vote, and cannot be privy to closed session discussions or information until further order of the court.
Gibbs attended Wednesday's board meeting and asked Bass why he had not contacted her since the order was issued.
“The order issued by Judge Flynn states that you are not to participate in board communication,” Bass replied. “That would include me discussing this case with you.”
Gibbs was upset with the lack of progress made on the issue since then.
“I am still a board member,” Gibbs told The Times. “But I cannot take my seat and I cannot vote until this is resolved. I think attorney Bass should be doing all he can to resolve the problem, since he represents the board.”
Gibbs said that the parties were due back in court later this week, but could not provide an exact date. She also said that she had hired her own attorney to represent her.
Bass said that he had asked the board to place the suit and the judge’s ruling on the district website.
“This is now public information, and there is no reason not to put it on display for the district residents to see,” Bass said.
The board did not comment on the suggestion.
There was additional dissension between board members and new Superintendent John Thomas.
One of the consent agenda items was the approval of a $130,000 contract for a new business manager. Board members Toni Williams and Derrick Robinson balked at the proposed hiring.
“I have not seen this contract or this potential employee,” Williams said. “When the district is going to make a hire, we (the board) should be involved in the interview and decision process.”
Robinson was even more direct with Thomas.
“It is not OK for you to make unilateral decisions,” Robinson told Thomas. “We will be involved in the hiring process. I do not approve of the way you go about your business.”
The issue comes after the removal of two high school principals in June. Eventually, Thornton Township High School Principal Tony Ratliff was reinstated to his old job, and former Thornwood Principal Darcelle Williams returned to a central administration job.
Board Vice President Edward Crayton said the board has some issues to work through.
“We had a meeting or two where the actions taken were voided,” he said, referring to the judge’s ruling. “We also had an investigation of administrators to deal with. But I believe that we are trying to do what is best for the students of District 205, and that is what is most important.”