Bye-Bye Bittner: Another Forest Ridge Board Member Resigns In Less Than A Year

In another surprise turn of events, Forest Ridge District 142 President Jerry Curran announced at the beginning of the June 21, 2016 that Joseph “Joe” Bittner turned in his resignation prior to the board meeting and was effective immediately.

This is now the second board member to leave 142, with the first being John Doolin, also right before a meeting on November 17, 2016.

The unique irony of this is that all seats except for Mrs. Roxana Agler’s seat may possibly be up for election in 2017 and to a segment of the population, this actually adds another layer of insult to injury.

At the start of last night’s meeting on June 21, 2016, the Forest Ridge Distrit 142 Board Members became as follows:

2013-2017 Term members

1.   Empty | Vacated by Joseph “Joe” Bittner June 21, 2016 | Elected | Opposition | 2013-2017 Term
2.  Jerry Curran (President) | Elected | Opposition | 2013-2017 Term
3.  Nancy Hullinger | Elected | Opposition | 2013-2017 Term
4.  Mary Derman | Appointed | Vacated by John Doolin November 17, 2015 |  Elected | Opposition | 2013-2017 Term

2015-2019 Term members

1.  Roxana Agler | Elected | Unapposed | 2015-2019 Term
2.  Sarah Doff (Vice President) | Vacant due to no candidates | Appointed | 2015-???* Term
3.  Tina Banialis (Secretary) | Vacant due to no candidates | Appointed | 2015-???* Term

* Still need to read the Election Code to find out whether or not this appointment is to fill the full term or just to the next election cycle

Who takes over what seat and how always matters greatly to the public, as there is an entirely different selection process involved with someone taking their oath of office because they went through the election process, not to be confused with the Internal Selection Process that occurs when a seat is sitting…well…vacant.

This type of seat-shifting has always been an available option to the political players, especially those who are lifers and from time to time its been scultped to happen quite intentionally…nothing like an incumbent to ensure “re-election” when they were instead appointed by a Board and there was no voter approval whatsoever.

District 142 is a 7 member board with each seat being a 4 year term.  When Doolin and Bittner resigned, this opened the door for the Board to make an appointment to the seat and while the Midlothian Park District recently tried to do the interviews of the candidates in Executive Session, this part of the rule book allows for the public in its entirety to be ignored and dismissed…even though the person is looking to become a representative of the public.

While I was trying to work through some of the timelines of various District 142 Board members, I was stalled by a set of election results I had looked at before…a few times in fact, and hadn’t thought twice about it.

Usually its pretty simple and straight forward to use election results to follow the legacy of a seat.  If someone ran for a 4 year term, you find a year in which they were elected and then check 4 years forward or back…depending on where you decide to start, of course.

So I find the 2011 results as follows:

SD Bd. Of Ed. Forest Ridge 142 – 4yr.
21 of 21 Precincts Reported
Download Spreadsheet View Results by Township View Certificates
Vote For 3
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
John Gron
Rebekah C. Mensing
Jason A. Hedke
Judith Schramm

From these results, Mensing, Hedke and Schramm were scheduled to hold office until the 2015 election.

We can then move to the 2013 election results as follows:

School Board Member, Forest Ridge 142, 4yr.
Registered Voters: 15,198 Vote For 4
Ballots Cast: 1,967
20 of 20 Precincts Reported
Download Spreadsheet View Results by Township View Certificates
Turnout: 12.94%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Malgorzata Raczka (NonPartisan)
Joseph Bittner (NonPartisan)
Gerard Curran (NonPartisan)
Nancy Hullinger (NonPartisan)
John M. Doolin (NonPartisan)

From these results, Bittner, Curran, Hullinger and Doolin were scheduled to hold office until the 2017 election.

Both Bittner (6/21/2016) and Doolin (11/17/2015) recently dropped out from the action for the rest of the term of those two seats.  Nothing says they cannot run again in 2017, but they have no more voting powers or Board email addresses (note to self- don’t forget to wonder if they used their personal email addresses for Board business).

And while the appointment of yet another person to the District 142 Board in the near future is a little distracting and disturbing, there were 7 people at last night’s meeting and evidence of only 3 having voter-elected authority to be there; Hullinger, Curran and Agler.

Let’s go back to the 2011 election results and Mensing, Hedke and Schramm taking an oath to hold office until the 2015 election because they went through the full election process to gain such authority.

Now here are the results from the 2015 election:

Board Member, Forest Ridge SD 142, 4yr
Registered Voters: 14,890 Vote For 3
Ballots Cast: 1,589
20 of 20 Precincts Reported
Download Spreadsheet View Results by Township View Certificates
Turnout: 10.67%
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Roxana Agler (Nonpartisan)
No Candidate (Nonpartisan)
No Candidate (Nonpartisan)

The only candidate who ran for office was Roxana Agler.  While it doesn’t matter at this point who’s seat she took over, it is curious as to who the holders are of the other 2 seats available during this 2015-2019 cycle…seats that had no candidate.

Without knowing why Mensing, Hedke and Schramm’s names were missing off of the list of options when the voters headed to the voters booth in 2015, a look at the April 28, 2015 meeting minutes shows 6 individuals as members of the Board and the minutes from the May 19, 2015 minutes shows the swearing in of two new members Sarah Doff and Tina Banialis.

I didn’t realize the seats would be left empty, forcing an internalized selection process to fill the two seats in 2015 and it was accomplished by the next meeting on May 19, 2015.

Phew!  That’s a fast turnaround with no public viewing of the 6 possible candidates.  And the appointment of Derman was in a Special meeting.

I guess at least one person hung the “Trust Us, We’re Government” sign out when the remaining board members realized no one other than Agler was going to run in the 2015 election back when the time to certify ones candidacy was closed.  I see no traces of any public conversation and interaction with the potential candidates and the biggest question of all right now?

Why was no one willing to run in the 2015 election and then 6 people become interested in an appointment opportunity made available by only one person running for one of three seats?

All in all, this surface glance at the history of these public officials certainly does display some measure of dsyfuction and with Agler possibly being the only Board member able to stay until 2019, this is time when the voters should really be scratching their heads while at least 3 members of the current Board were chosen internally and not directly by the voters.

That’s just still too weird of a scootch around the normal and reasonable demands of a person actually putting forth a candidate rather than slipping through the front door with a resume, a rule book and a Rolodex.

P.S.  While roamin through the May 19, 2015 minutes, I fell on this one and couldn’t help but momentarily shake my head at just how desperate public record-keepers are about keeping the names of those busy voting unattached from their voting record.  Here’s a quick one in the middle of the minutes…ummm…who voted for Agler is a matter of public record but according to the text, there was only a show of hands…huh?  Couldn’t tell them apart?  Do they show up on any of the audio recordings the Board makes of each meeting?



About Midwestern Valerie

Creator and host of Advanced Midlothian Politics on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter: Researcher, writer and journalist since the 1970's.
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