NEW LENOX, IL. (ECWd) -
One might think that having a federal grand jury subpoenaing your business associates and colleagues left and right for allegations of financial mismanagement might make you a little more cautious about your own actions. Well, not in Lincoln-Way High School District 210.
Lincoln-Way Superintendent R. Scott Tingley continued on his now-familiar autocratic path of leadership Tuesday night at the second-ever meeting of the Board of Education’s Building and Finance Committee meeting. Tingley not-so-smoothly evaded direct questions about the for-profit daycare that will continue to operate RENT-FREE and virtually expense-free in the District’s high schools for the 2016-17 school year. Tingley talked in circles, but in the end, his message was clear that the District will continue business as usual with Aunt Nancy’s Child Care.
Free, Free, Free
ECWd's CALL TO ACTION: Before we continue on with this article, we firmly believe it is a violation of law to allow a business to use public funds, property, or credit for their own gain with no public purpose. A for-profit daycare is not a public purpose and cannot be allowed to continue abusing the taxpayers - fair market value must be paid to the district, and can only be allowed access thru approval of the Board of Education. We suggest residents seek remedy in the Courts for this abuse of public property and public funds. This school board has not been given authority by the legislature to "rent" space for less than fair market value - not to mention the IRS should have been notified of these past "gifts" to this business.
Despite learning from a concerned taxpayer four months ago at a Board of Education meeting that previous Board members never approved the agreement that allows Aunt Nancy’s Child Care to run four centers, which oversee about 200 children, Tingley implied it was too late to start charging rent. He seemed more interested in the expectations of teachers that use the daycare to have the cushy benefit than trying to recoup some money for the financially strapped school district.
The District is in such money trouble that it took the uninformed, knee-jerk reaction of voting to close a high-tech, energy-efficient, 8-year-old school, Lincoln-Way North—displacing thousands of students throughout the District’s three buildings that will remain. North is scheduled to close within days. Yet, while chaos has erupted around him, and his former boss, Lawrence Wyllie, is investigated for possible criminal activity related to sweetheart deals and actions without Board approval, Tingley implied that he will do nothing to rectify the situation with Aunt Nancy’s.
Committee member Norm Roney of Mokena fired questions at Tingley about the for-profit daycare business, which has operated rent-free out of the four Lincoln-Way schools for at least 18 years.
Roney asked if the District will charge rent of Aunt Nancy’s in the future. Tingley said it’s pretty much up to the leadership of Aunt Nancy’s to throw the District a bone. “We have never charged rent. We’re still in discussions to see what they are willing to remit. For instance, this year they gave out $8,000 in student scholarships. I’m in discussions with the owners now about the possibility of remitting that payment back. They’re not on a lease, and so the agreement is to utilize the facilities.” He added,“They’ve set their rates. I’m in discussions to see what they are willing to give us now, maybe we’ll go to a competitive bid process for the 2017-18 school year.” Maybe?! That kind of mindset is what has gotten this school district into a world of hurt. And now the students losing their school are about to suffer the consequences of negligent leadership.
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
The Aunt Nancy’s deal for the daycare was struck by former District 210 Superintendent Wyllie during his reign. Wyllie arranged his deal with friend and daycare owner Nancy Powers without any Board approval, and as a parting gift to Powers, Wyllie extended the rent-free agreement for 10 years just before retiring in 2013. Wyllie seems to have a history of bestowing taxpayers’ funds to those he favors.
Roney pointed out Tuesday that a school district should not be in the rental-property business, giving away space to for-profits. He asked, “They are operating in a tax-exempt building, so it is my understanding that they should be paying property tax on the square footage they occupy.” Without missing a beat, Tingley responded, “According to our attorneys, we do not have a lease in place, and they are not tenants. They utilize our facility, but that’s according to our attorney.” Details, details. This is cost-recovery arrangement, not a rental, according to the superintendent.
Tingley went on to defend Aunt Nancy’s Child Care as a perk that will keep teachers from staying home with their newborns. “A number of teachers come back to work because of the ability to have their child here. We’re not paying for them to stay home, we’re not paying for a sub, so that is part of the cost recovery for the system."
Another alarming disclosure Roney pushed on is the fact that the daycare agency does not have proper liability coverage. When Roney asked, “So what does that do to liability if they’re not tenants? We’re basically liable for anything that happens in that daycare?" Tingley looked him in the eye and responded, “They do have liability coverage, but you are correct. They have their limits. It’s still on our property, just like when the park district is utilizing our facilities, just like Girl Scouts utilizing our facilities, there’s an incurred risk."
He said that maybe next year, this issue could be brought up to the Board of Education for consideration. It’s likely the Feds would appreciate that.
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