The just-released transcripts of a closed-door session in December offer a glimpse at the tensions between members of the Oswegoland Park District board, tensions that Board President Bob Mattingly said haven’t improved since.
The written record of the meeting has been made available at the behest of Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis, who rendered his opinion last week that the park board violated the Open Meetings Act during this session.
It was Commissioner Len Wass who complained to Weis about the violation, and the transcript shows that the conversation was largely about Wass himself. The Illinois Open Meetings Act provides 28 exceptions under which public bodies can meet behind closed doors, but Weis said portions of the meeting strayed away from those approved topics.
Since the Park District Board has a sterling record with the Open Meetings Act, and did not discuss anything during the meeting that would require a board decision, or concerned district money, Weis said the release of the transcript would bring the matter to a close.
But the issue of the working relationship between Wass and the rest of the board is another matter entirely. The Dec. 28 executive session took place in the wake of an , at which Wass presented his election campaign’s controversial analysis of the district’s finances.
Wass called the ensuing confrontation “one of the most abusive experiences of (his) life.” Mattingly describes it as pent-up frustration with Wass, for writing what he sees as one-sided letters to the editor after park board meetings, presenting erroneous numbers to the public, and acting on his own, without consulting his fellow board members.
Wass said he is “flabbergasted” by the charge of one-sidedness, saying, “I always report things the way I see them, as professionally and objectively as I can.” He charges Mattingly and the rest of the board with telling him to spin his comments in a favorable way.
The very matter of the Open Meetings Act charge is a source of contention. Wass feels vindicated by the state’s attorney’s decision, but Mattingly said Wass not only was the cause of the Dec. 28 meeting, he violated the Act as much as anyone else in the room. Wass sees his actions as defending himself.
Mattingly said responding to the Open Meetings Act charge will cost the district between $4,000 and $5,000 in legal fees. But Wass said it’s the rest of the board who should bear the responsibility for those fees.
“I think it’s unfortunate that they broke the law to begin with,” he said. “I think we should look at the root cause, and attribute any cost to the perpetrators, not the victim.”
Wass said he believes his relationship with Mattingly has improved in the five months since the executive session. He said the board does not have to be “the best of friends” to work together for the good of park district residents.
Mattingly, however, said the relationship remains strained. He still believes Wass is presenting a one-sided view of the district to the public, and said, “As long as he has this attitude, it will continue to get worse.”
“I think it is reparable,” he said of the relationship, “but the most important thing is to stick to the business of the park district.”
The full transcript of the Dec. 28 meeting, minus sections in which the board adhered to the Open Meetings Act, is attached to this article as a PDF.