Welch gets sensitive over questions posed to asst supt/girlfriend
The first tiff between Kelly and Welch in open session was over approving the January minutes. Kelly thought there were enough abstentions to keep the minutes from being approved. Welch rudely told her that she didn't know Roberts Rules of Order. Since the incident happened first thing after executive session it is possible the bad blood was carry over from the closed session.
Welch really lost his cool when Kelly raised the issue of whether Assistant Superintendent Nikita Johnson was going to be working at District 99 (Cicero Elementary Schools) next year. Johnson confirmed that she had interviewed for the position. She issued a non-denial, saying that she hadn't signed a contract with District 99. Johnson said, “I have not been offered the position... I have not received an offer.... I'm employed at this district. I work hard every day.”
Johnson was on the agenda as “Authorize Asst. Superintendentto begin FY09 Budget process”. Kelly claimed this was properly the purview of the superintendent. Welch responded that the board could delegate it to someone else under Illinois law.
A fairly widely discussed rumor holds that Welch and Johnson have been dating since at least summer, 2006, shortly after Johnson was hired.
Johnson explained with she was a highly sought after “young professional” and claimed to be frequently recruited for positions. This may be true. But if she was so highly recruited, why isn't she taking a position at a school district without financial and political connections to her boyfriend? Welch is primarily connected to Cicero through District 209's law firm, the DelGaldo Group.
Welch got quite angry with Kelly over asking whether Johnson would actually be implementing the budget she'd be writing. I was taking notes, not videotaping, so below is a partial transcript of Welch's response to Kelly's questions.
“All you do is grandstand and do things that are inappropriate.... Shame on Mrs. Kelly.... [Johnson] is qualified.... You're questioning her professionalism. Why don't you become a professional?” At one point Welch called Kelly “ignorant.”
After the meeting I exchanged some friendly words with Welch. He asked if I thought Kelly's questions should have been raised. I responded that it was fair to ask if the person writing the budget would be around to implement the budget. Welch said it should have been raised in closed session. I sorta shrugged. After thinking about it, I'm pretty sure Kelly raised the issue in the right place.
From one perspective it's kinda a personnel issue. But it's definitely a budget issue. The district is already stretching Illinois law to delegate the budget away from the superintendent and to an assistant. This unusual practice is compounded by the irregularities that the board is delegating the budget to the board president's girlfriend (who happens to be the neice of board member Robin Foreman) and that Johnson's leaving before the budget is implemented. These are both issues that raise concerns about if the budget will be legitimate, or just some gobbledygook to appease the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Because of ongoing poor management District 209 has to provide its budget to the ISBE.
So, holding a discussion of the budget in executive session (closed session) would violate the Open Meetings Act. While Welch and Johnson may have preferred not to discuss Johnson leaving to work at a smaller elementary school district in open session, it seems to me Illinois law prohibits discussing it as a budget issue in closed session.