Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Peraica: Hire investigator and I'll call off lawsuit Schoolâ€™s attorney reportedly will confer with board By BOB SKOLNIK Contributing Reporter Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Last week Riverside resident Tony Peraica offered to drop his lawsuit against Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 if the school board appoints an independent investigator to determine whether school resources were used to advocate for the school's property tax referendum. Peraica, a former member of the Cook County Board who was defeated when he ran for his third term in November, made his offer during the public comment portion of the District 208 school board meeting on May 17. He said an independent investigation would avoid the expense of a lawsuit. "The choice is yours," Peraica told the school board. "I hope you will act wisely and take the lessexpensive route." Last month, Peraica and the Chicago-based anti-tax group Taxpayers United of America sued District 208 and the then-members of the District 208 school board, alleging that taxpayers' money and resources were illegally and improperly used in the referendum campaign. Peraica said the purpose of the lawsuit is to punish wrongdoing and not to win damages for himself or the other plaintiff. "I'm not out to take money from Riverside-Brookfield High School's already pressed budget," Peraica said. "I felt a point had to be made." At the May 17 meeting, a visibly angry District 208 Interim Superintendent David Bonnette finally cut off Peraica's comments after nearly 10 minutes and told him he had exceeded the time limit for public comment. "The school district is going to vigorously defend itself and you will hear from our attorney," said Bonnette.
"It's totally inappropriate for you to appear here and make this request." On Monday, Peraica said he received a telephone call last week from the school board's attorney. "I received a phone call from their attorney, Todd Faulkner, and I told him exactly what I told them at the meeting," Peraica said. "He was in California on vacation at the time, but said that as soon as he gets back he was going to talk to Matt Sinde and the other members of the board about my proposal and would let me know what they're going to do." Peraica said Faulkner seemed interested in his offer. "He can't obviously decide himself, but he was very open to my suggestion and indicated that would be a reasonable way to handle this matter, assuming that the board is willing to do it. So he said I'll talk to them and we'll get back to you as soon as I get a sense of direction as to how they want to proceed," Peraica said. Sinde declined to comment on the specifics of Peraica's proposal, adding he had not yet talked to Faulkner. "I'm glad that they talked, and we'll see what happens," Sinde said. In an April meeting of the prior school board, two board members - Matt Sinde and Mike Welch proposed that the school board conduct an investigation on referendum activities at RB. They suggested that they, as members who were not involved in the referendum campaign, should conduct the investigation. However, the other board members at the time did not support the idea and Sinde's proposal never came to a vote. In what appeared to be an attempt to placate Sinde at that April meeting, Bonnette told Sinde that he would report back to him about the referendum activities at the school. But the filing of the lawsuit apparently stopped any formal internal investigation or report on referendum activities by Bonnette dead in its tracks. Sinde said after the May 17 board meeting that he has not received any such report from Bonnette. "I have not and it's been placed on hold pending the results of the litigation," Sinde said. Peraica said he wants a lawyer with no ties to the school to conduct an investigation of referendum activities at RB in return for dropping his lawsuit. He said that he reserves the right to proceed with his lawsuit if the board does not act on any findings of wrongdoing that the investigation could uncover. "I want someone who is in private practice, is an attorney, former state's attorney or attorney general or U.S. Attorney, someone who knows how to conduct such an investigation and will not have an axe to grind one way or another, but will simply go out to determine what the facts are and then issue a report to the board for their consideration and action," Peraica said.