CAT Tracks for February 17, 2012
A BELATED VALENTINE'S DAY PRESENT

From Cairo School District Number One to their sweethearts!

No!

NOT students, staff, or faculty...certainly no love lost there.

To the LAWYERS!!!

While continuing my new passion...

Hey:

And...

    He who shall remain nameless is gone, gone, gone!!!

An old retired CAT's gotta have somethin' to fill his endless Saturdays!

So...

How 'bout investigative journalism...

...an expose of the drip, drizzle, and drowning of Cairo School District Number One in legal fees!!!


I've already related that the District spent over $200,000 persecuting James Gibson from October 2005 through the end of December 2011. (Below, you will clearly see - from District financial documents - that the previously reported total will most likely need to be updated...some from December, some from Robbins et al's HAPPY NEW YEAR!)


Those findings from my first FOIA request were so impressive (disgusting!), I decided that the taxpayers of Cairo (along with ISBE officials) should know the TOTAL picture.

Just what has the District spent for ALL legal services (not "just" James Gibson.) In other words, what lurks behind the multitude of blacked-out lines (aka "redacted" material) provided in response to my first FOIA request? And, for good measure...what about payments to other legal firms? (Yes, the District removed Robbins et al as their "one and only" lawyers (allowing them to "keep" James Gibson) and retained another legal firm to handle negotiations matters.

So...

Earlier this month, I made a second FOIA request...to ferret out any and all legal fees.


Since the lawyers were called upon to wield the black markers last time...

Nope, not making that up!

I even got a chiding (dogging?) e-mail from he who shall remain nameless...that my FOIA request was adding to the District's legal bills. When I cattily responded that any such charge would be the proverbial "drop in the bucket", I was stunned to receive a response from "he who"...and I quote: "Yes, I would have to agree!!!" Folks, that "missive" literally left this old CAT speechless. With true graciousness, I allowed him that "last word".

Hell, I hit the print button, found a frame, and hung that sucker on the wall!

(CAT Tracks Editor's Note: Okay, that last line was poetic license...thought about it, but didn't actually do it...yet. However, the exchange of e-mails and the conceding-the-point e-mail were the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God!)


Yes, I have digressed. Where was I?

Oh, yes...

Since the lawyers were called upon to wield the black markers last time, I thought I would use a different approach...to stem the flow of financial blood.

Every school district in the State of Illinois is required to by law to publish what is called the "Annual State of Affairs" (aka ASA)...listing their fund balances at the close of another fiscal year, as well as payments to employees (by categories and groupings) AND (my interest in this case) payments to any vendors (including lawyers) that total more than $2,500. Well, as we know, the CSD #1 lawyers fit easily into THAT category.

(CAT Tracks Editor's Note: If you are a loyal CAT Tracks reader, you have seen the ASA material before. I have used them previously to compare the Cairo School District's financial situation to its neighbors - i.e. Century, Egyptian, and Meridian. You can see the latest edition here.)

Anyway...

Since the ASA is a public document REQUIRED TO PRINTED IN THE LOCAL NEWSPAPER, there would be no need for lawyers, black markers, and a running cha-ching meter.

Since James Gibson's case has gone on now for over five years, I rounded my request to the next increment of five.

So...

About a week ago, I made my second FOIA request...for a copy of the ASA's for the past ten years. I figured that would give me the total amounts paid to Robbins et al (and any other legal firms employed by the District.) No need for me to enter numbers into a spread sheet, just nice round TOTALS for the year. This old dinocat can whip out his calculator and total 10 numbers in a heartbeat!

Well...

...I was promptly provided six years of ASA's.

However, a small glitch emerged...

School districts accumulate a lot of paper...even more than this old packCAT. If school districts request and receive permission from the state, they can dispose of various documents.

It seems (and I have been provided written proof) that "he who" made such a request in 2010...a request that covered the documents in question up to a certain date. (Since that "house cleaning" request pre-dates my FOIA request by a couple of years, even this righteously paranoid CAT is satisfied that there has been no attempt to keep said documents from me.)

I am not dismayed. I am sure the totals from 6 years will be dramatic. (I mean...we KNOW that the total will be over $200,000!)


Okay, I have rambled...trying to enlighten you on the "dogged" pursuit of the truth by one CAT investigative journalist.

Now for the ranting and raving!!!

Nah, just kidding...

...it's been said, to death.

So, instead...


Immediately below are three pages from the latest edition of CSD #1's "Open Accounts Payable List"...aka the "monthly bills".

These bills were reviewed and approved by the Cairo Board of Education at its meeting last night...

...said bills will be further reviewed and approved by the Cairo Financial Oversight Panel at its meeting this morning.


CAT Tracks Editor's Note

For the purposes of this "legal discussion", the items of interest on the pages below are:

The bills:


So, in conclusion...

The poor, pitiful, "BROKE, BROKE, BROKE" Cairo School District Number One approved payments in January 2012 totally $8,041.84 for legal services...

...which over the course of 12 months would be a total just short of $100,000 - $96,502.08 to be exact.

Folks...

I don't have the statistics to back it up (maybe somebody out there can help me out and Google it), BUT, trust me on this...that amount is NOT normal for a school district the size of CSD #1. That amount is LARGE!


AND...

THAT amount does NOT include the big BUMP that will occur should Robbins et al get to really feel the love...of another IELRB hearing to try to prevent the District from having to comply with the ALJ's order (upheld on appeal) to make James Gibson whole. (You saw the bills on the earlier hearing...the District dropping $10,000 here and $30,000 there and then another $10,000.


Yes...

...while the District stuck you with paying extra on your health insurance, while the District says they can't afford to give you a raise, while the District's checking account balance crossed the $4.5 million mark, while the District FEEDS, FEEDS, FEEDS the lawyers...

Oooooooh, keep that thought to yourself!

Bite your tongue!!

Can't use that kind of language around the children!!!