After a 90-minute closed session Friday, the board voted, 5-2, to ratify the 2005 amendment.
The move pushes the fate of 70 extra sick days that would be credited to Erwin’s pension to the state’s Teachers Retirement System, board President Kathleen Hewell said.
The agreement credits Erwin with 85 sick days each July 1 from 2005 to 2008. Because Erwin is leaving July 13 this year, she will receive about 180 sick days - or 85 for each of the past two years and one for each day she works in the district beyond July 1, officials said.
Hewell said Erwin requested the sick time in lieu of a raise. It was to be used as time served toward the five-year vesting period for an Illinois pension. Hewell has said the lack of a public vote was an “oversight.”
Since 2005, the state Legislature outlawed "excessive" sick days; anything beyond the 15 days any administrator would be entitled to.
“By ratifying it, we would be in essence taking the liability for 70 days we would have to pay for Dr. Erwin,” board member Karla Ray said during the meeting.
Members Chris Hansen and Karla Ray sought to table the issue until the Kane County state's attorney finishes investigating whether the 2005 agreement violated the Open Meetings Act. When that failed, they cast the dissenting votes.
"Obviously, I didn’t want to approve it,” Hansen said after the meeting, declining to elaborate.
“By ratifying this agreement at this time, we are in essence muddying the waters,” Ray said. “We should be open and honest with the community and let the state's attorney move forward.” Ray, who was seated after the contract was signed, called the original decision “unethical” and said the board did not approve it in open session for fear of a public backlash.
Friday, the state’s attorney’s office received the needed documents and audio tapes for an inquiry into whether the board on April 11, 2005, approved the amendment behind closed doors. If true, that could be a violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
Katherine Moran, the state’s attorney’s office civil division chief, would not say how long an investigation could take.“We’ll be reviewing what [school board attorney Mike Duggan] provided,” Moran said Friday. “Our inquiry will continue. We’ll review the information. I have no comment beyond that.”
Duggan declined to speculate on any effect the inquiry could have on the board’s decision.
“The state’s attorney [office] is going to do what they’re going to do,” board member Scott Nowling said. “I think it’s time for us to decide what we’re going to do as a board.”
Hewell echoed that sentiment.“We’ve discussed this a lot, and I think the majority of the board decided it was time to vote on this whichever way the vote went and just move forward,” Hewell said. “I just think drawing it out doesn’t really solve it.”
Hansen, Hewell and Gaffney were on the board at the time of the contract amendment. All were recorded in minutes as going into the closed session.
Erwin did not attend the public portions of Friday's meeting and did not return messages seeking comment.