Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Attempted Fraud": Ex St Charles Board President gives Erwin memo to County Prosecutor, police

Erwin's Quest to Vest

Gaffney: “I didn’t write the memo...I just signed it.”

The post-Erwin fallout continues in WestChiTown as St Charles board member Jim Gaffney tries to distance himself from the now infamous "Erwin memo" that bears his signature.

His 'I didn't write it but I signed it' excuse is the lamest thing I've heard since Erwin's, 'I didn't present at the conference, but I signed off on it.'

What's next? 'I'm not the Queen of England, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night?'

One source close to district leadership in St Charles told KSN&C, in April, that several district personnel were aware of Erwin's efforts to pressure HR staff to add 85 sick days to her account starting in 2004 - a year early. Some have opined that such pressure may have played a role in the departure of a former HR chief in 2006.

The rumor was that after only a few weeks on the job, new HR director Tony Spahr started receiving significant pressure from Erwin - first orally - then, after he reviewed her contract, and refused to add the days - she gave him the memo Gaffney signed, and directed Spahr to add the days again.

Spahr sought legal advice and refused again. After that, Erwin told him that maybe he should start looking for work elsewhere - which he apparently did.

If the rumor is true - there ought to be a piece of paper out there - some kind of legal opinion from the board attorney Mike Duggan, written in mid February.
This from AMELIA FLOOD at the Kane County Chronicle:

ST. CHARLES – Former District 303 school board President Bobbie Raehl has taken to police and county prosecutors a memo – signed by board member James Gaffney – that she says shows “behind-the-scenes business.”

“Personally, I feel it’s attempted fraud and it’s a violation of the Open Meetings Act,” Raehl said.

Gaffney denies writing the one-sentence memo that states that the school board agreed in 2004 to award nearly a year in sick days to its then-superintendent.

“I didn’t write the memo,” Gaffney said during a recess of Monday night’s school board meeting. “I just signed it.”

The board later approved a contract amendment to give 340 sick days to then-Superintendent Barbara Erwin. But that action was taken during a 2005 closed-session vote that was found to be in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

The memo that was signed by Gaffney, Raehl said, showed he was trying to act on behalf of the board.“He was saying it was the board’s intent, and it was not,” Raehl insisted.

Gaffney explained that “the human resources guy” faxed him the memo.

The district’s former human resources director, Tony Spahr, said the document was not faxed by his department. He said he first received it from Erwin in her office in February.“I don’t know how she obtained it,” Spahr said. “I’d never received anything like it.”

The memo consists of a single sentence: “This is to affirm that the Board of Education, agreed in 2004, as part of her employment contract to award her 340 sick days at 85 days a year.”

It is signed, “Jim Gaffney, past president.”

Raehl said she learned of the memo in March. She confronted Gaffney about it during an executive session April 9, Raehl reported, but he would not acknowledge the memo.

Gaffney said the memo would have been on his personal letterhead if he had written it.“If you look back at the record, everything is on my personal letterhead,” Gaffney said Monday. “If I had written it, ... it would’ve been better written.”

He did not return phone calls Tuesday for comment on Raehl’s accusations.

On Monday night, Gaffney was called upon by resident Jeff Blankenship to explain the memo.“Like a bicycle that’s broken, you have to fix what’s broken,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship also asked Gaffney and board President Kathy Hewell to resign amid the controversy involving a contract extension the board awarded to Erwin.“Mrs. Hewell, Mr. Gaffney, you aren’t helping this board,” Blankenship said. “If we’re going to do what’s best for our children, some people have to leave.”

Gaffney would not comment Monday on the calls for his resignation or those asking for an explanation of his actions.“Everybody’s got their own opinions,” Gaffney said.

Hewell could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Timeline of events

February 2007 -– Tony Spahr, the former head of human resources at the district, is given a memo signed by Jim Gaffney asking that Superintendent Barbara Erwin be given 340 sick days retroactively.

March – Board President Bobbi Raehl becomes aware of the memo through the board’s attorney, Mike Duggan.

April 9 – Raehl alleges she confronted Gaffney in executive session about the memo and that he did not acknowledge it.

July 2 – The Kane County Chronicle requests the memo under the Freedom of Information Act.

Aug. 9 – Raehl meets with lawyers in the civil division of the State’s Attorney’s Office to discuss the memo.

Aug. 13 – Raehl and others call for an explanation of the memo during citizen comments at the school board meeting. Gaffney informs a Chronicle reporter that he did not write the memo, only signed it and that it was faxed to him for his signature by District 303’s human resources department.

Aug. 14 – Tony Spahr says that the fax did not come from his department and that the first time he saw the memo was when he was given it by Erwin in February.

Click here to see the signed memo

Click here to see the Chronicle's request for the memo

Photo by Travis Houghton at the Kane CountyChronicle.

Gaffney says "the Human resources guy" sent it to him. Bull.

Apart from the fact that Tony Spahr had no motivation to do so, it would have constituted an illegal act, and he had previously refused to grant her the days, despite being threatened with termination...WHERE ARE THE FAX MACHINE MARKINGS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE MEMO?

I don't know about your faxes...but mine all have a time stamps on them. Take a good look at the Chronicle's photo of the actual memo. No marks.

Did Gaffney mess up his story?

So who really wrote the memo? You can't rule out Gaffney. You can't rule out a couple of others either.


Anonymous said...

Erwin and Gaffney both belong in jail.

Anonymous said...


Memo was plea for more

Comments (38 comment(s))
ST. CHARLES – In February, Superintendent Barbara Erwin handed St. Charles schools human resources director Anthony Spahr a memo, stating that she should be awarded 85 additional sick days for every year of work since 2004, he said.

The memo, signed by board member James Gaffney as “past president,” appears to be an effort to retroactively apply a 2005 contract amendment to the deal that she signed to become District 303’s superintendent in 2004.

The amendment gave Erwin 85 sick days’ credit on each July 1 of her contract from 2005 to 2010. It was voted on in closed session April 11, 2005, but was not formally ratified until June 8, 2007.

The school board recently was sanctioned for violating the Open Meetings Act for approving the contract extension in private.

Gaffney’s memo is addressed “To whom it may concern,” is undated and reads: “This is to affirm that the Board of Education, agreed in 2004, as part of her employment contract to award her 340 sick days at 85 days a year.”

Gaffney could not be reached for comment Monday. He first was elected to the board in 2003, was elected president in 2005, and stepped down from that position in February 2006 after a public spat with another board member.

Former board President Bobbie Raehl said Gaffney wrote the memo of his own accord and cited the rest of the school board unfairly, adding that the school board did not discuss the matter until meetings in closed session March 21 and April 11, 2007.

“The board never directed him to do that, but [Erwin] never stopped this close affiliation with Jim Gaffney, he was her confidant,” Raehl said. “I made the board aware of this problem before I left office, before the April 17 election, in an executive session.”

Current board President Kathleen Hewell said she was just recently informed of the note’s existence and doesn’t consider it a very important document.

“I was made aware this weekend when someone read it to me, but I haven’t seen it,” Hewell said. “I don’t think it’s a significant memo; a memo from a past president carries no weight.”

The entire school board was informed of the request before the April election when the district’s attorney, Michael Duggan, provided the board with a legal opinion on the issue.

In general terms, Duggan told the Chronicle: “The amendment amends the contract according to its expressed terms. It’s as simple as what it says; we’re talking about an amendment with very specific terms.”

Hewell said the board would convene Friday and could approve a resolution finalizing the Erwin’s finances.

Among the many credits the board could approve on Friday’s agenda are Erwin’s 255 sick day credits for 2005, 2006 and 2007, in addition to the 14 she earned in 2004, Spahr said.

According to Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System’s spokeswoman Eva Goltermann, an administrator or teacher is eligible for the Illinois pension plan only after accumulating 340 or more days, which typically are earned over a lengthy tenure in Illinois public schools. However, Erwin could take her approximately 269 sick days to Kentucky, where she will serve as the state board’s Commissioner of Education, if they allow a transfer to its pension plan. Erwin also has credits from Texas and an annuity from Arizona.

Erwin, who could not be reached for comment, is scheduled to formally leave St. Charles on Friday and begin in Kentucky on Monday.

Anonymous said...

According to today's Chronicle, Gaffney apologized at last night's board meeting for both he and the board's Open meeting violation. He made no mention of the memo. I'm guessing that the new superintendent asked him to shape up. It doesn't excuse Gaffney's arrogance or the fact that he follows his own agenda instead of the rules. First, to help Erwin get fully vested by signing the memo. Now, I hear he wants a new high school built on the west side of town where he owns property. I believe that's his next agenda, so he's willing to play nice for now. The man needs to resign...