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Transcript Shows Strain Between Park Board Members

The newly-released transcript of the Dec. 28 closed session, during which the Oswegoland Park District Board violated the Open Meetings Act, shows a board at odds with one another.

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.

mike ellison June 05, 2012 at 01:24 PM
What I see in these transcripts is consistency between what Len Wass said he was for during the election, what he says in open meetings, and what he says behind closed doors. Good for him. This idea of the board sticking together as one is a lousy idea. That's a big part of why are taxes are so high. We have PD and school boards with far too many yes-men who only think of spending money. Everyone on the PD board had some sort of election platform that they presented prior to getting elected and should feel obligated to represent their constituants in the manner in which they campaigned. It would be a near miracle if they all campaigned on the exact same ideas that would be representative of them all acting as one, like Mattingly wants them to do. Len campaigned on cutting costs and that's what he's trying to do. It's a joke to think that the other board members want that too. Their record is contrary to that.
Greg O'Neil June 05, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Mike, Your comments are right on the money! The board has attempted to demonize Len Wass since he was elected. Mr. White also campaigned on fiscal responsibility but has joined in with the big spenders of OPM (other peoples money). IMO, the PD is way too big for the community and has way too many bureaucrats making six figure salaries to schedule soccer games. Lets go to a user supported system and drop the property taxes, then you can spend all the money you want as long as you can find someone WILLING to pay.
Rachelle Stoller June 05, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but I didn't find that information worth the $5,000 hit to the Park District. And, here's the thing, that additional expenditure does fall on Mr. Wass' head as much as any of the other Board members. If you've ever been on a Board, whether it is for a non-profit, municipality or for-profit, the decisions and actions of any Board member reflect on the entire Board. That's why they advise people not to go "lone wolf" in Board training. I admire anyone with the passion and drive to serve a Board position. It can be no fun for that reason. It's not about you anymore. It's about the greater good of the Board and its organization. I just implore Mr. Wass to stop playing the victim and start playing nice in the sandbox. It's the only way he is going to make any progress on the platform he was elected to push through, assuming that's what he's really there to do.
Angela DeBolt June 05, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Well said Rachelle!
Tina Conley June 06, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Agree with Rachelle....I read all 11 pages, the President starts out by apologizing, Wass comes back, again and again, trying to bait the other board members into admitting "on tape" that they are mean to him. You can read the frustration in their answers to him trying to move on and remain professional. What a big baby.
Just Sayin June 07, 2012 at 04:14 PM
100% agree with you Mike!

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