A billing invoice from District 15's attorney has raised questions about the timing of former board member Mark Bloom's resignation.
Bills from District 15's law firm show that a series of consultations occured between Dec. 14 and Dec. 21 regarding the legal issues surrounding a potential resignation by a board member. Bloom resigned from the board a month later on Jan. 14.
The timing of Bloom's resignation is significant because it determined how his seat would be filled. If Bloom had resigned by Jan. 7 there would have been a special election to fill the seat. Instead the school board was able to appoint someone to finish the two years left on his term.
"I think there was obviously an attempt to talk to the attorney a month before Mr. Bloom resigns to figure out what the timing and what the rules were," said school board member Sue Quinn. "So it was very carefully investigated and selected ahead of time."
"I think somebody wanted to know exactly what the timing was," Quinn added.
Bloom missed the district's November meeting. District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson said that before the board's December meeting, Bloom told school board president Gerald Chapman his new job might prevent him from fulfilling his duties as a board member. Thompson said Chapman told him about the discussion and he took steps to be prepared in case Bloom resigned.
"It was totally up to Mark Bloom when he resigned," Thompson said. "I don't think anyone tried to influence him. He was a good board member who was committed to the district."
Thompson said Bloom had been unsure about whether he would need to resign.
"For me, as a superintendent, if I hear that there is the possibility of an opening, I want to be prepared," Thompson said.
Attorneys billed the district for nine conversations related to legal issues surrounding a potential resignation. The total cost of the consulations was $923.
Among the legal issues examined by the attorneys was what would happen if a candidate in the April 5 election applied for the open seat, Thompson said. Ultimately, a candidate, Dave Seiffert, did apply and was appointed.
Even though Seiffert now is finishing Bloom's term, he remains on the ballot for the April 5 election. If he were to win a four year term he would resign Bloom's seat and the board would again have the chance to appoint someone.
Among the candidates in the April 5 election are Chapman and school board vice president James Ekeberg, both of whom voted to appoint Seiffert. Seiffert was chosen from among 14 applicants.
"I learned about [Mark Bloom's] resignation the same day as everyone else," Chapman said. "I found out the same time as the other board members. The person who made the decision was Mark Bloom."
Bloom could not be reached for comment for this story. When he resigned from the board, Bloom cited work related conflicts that had forced him to miss two board meetings.
The first candidates for the April 5 election filed their paperwork to be on the ballot on Dec. 13. The school district's attorney began looking into the legal ramifications of a possible resignation on Dec. 14. The final day candidates had to turn in election petitions was Dec. 20, the final attorney consultation occurred on Dec. 21.
Aside from Chapman, Ekeberg and Seiffert, the other candidates in the April 5 election are Manjula Sriram, Scott Herr, and Gerard Iannuzzelli. The six candidates are vying for three seats on the school board.