The prestigious Lake Forest High School (District 115) located in Lake County, IL, has had its share of publicity, and not all good, in the past year.
Starting in the fall of 2012, Lake Forest High School teachers went on strike, walking the picket line, even though their average base salary was $106,500, along with other perks such as family health insurance, annuities, pension contribution payments, etc.
Ending the year was the arrest of the former theater manager at Lake Forest High School, District 115, Benjamin Davidson, for sex related crimes. Since then Davidson has pleaded not guilty to 18 sex crimes in the Lake County Criminal Court in Waukegan.
Now newly-elected LFHS School Board member Ted Moorman of Lake Forest starts off his term with an unnecessary cloud hanging over him. Moorman, who ran as an independent on a platform advocating more Board oversight, transparency and accountability, has been sued by former Board president Sharon Golan in connection with statements he allegedly made during his election campaign.
As reported in the Gazebo News, Golan’s lawsuit accuses Moorman of defamation and invasion of privacy and seeks $500,000 in damages for allegedly causing Golan to experience severe emotional distress, mental anguish, embarrassment, and injury to her reputation.
Golan’s lawsuit claims that Moorman made false and misleading oral and written statements concerning her participation on the Selection Committee for the construction manager for the $50-million-plus renovation of LFHS. The contract was awarded to Pepper Construction, a company owned by the uncle and cousins of Golan’s husband, Stephan Golan. Bringing family ties full circle, Mrs. Golan is represented in her defamation lawsuit by her husband’s law firm, Golan & Christie.
As an outsider looking in, it appears that Golan’s lawsuit could be nothing but a very expensive exercise in hair-splitting. Golan indisputably put herself in a position that smacks of, at the very least, an appearance of impropriety. She does not dispute the essentials of the matter: 1) that her husband has close familial ties to Pepper Construction; 2) that she accepted a position on the Selection Committee; and 3) that Pepper’s bid was selected by the Board.
What Golan does dispute are the peripheral facts of whether or not she “publicly” disclosed her familial relationship to Pepper and whether or not her immediate family had any financial interest in Pepper. Golan claims that she disclosed her family ties to her fellow Board members once she learned of Pepper’s bid, but it is debatable whether this constitutes a “public” disclosure. Is the Board considered the public? Was the disclosure made during a public meeting or was it made behind closed doors?
Golan further claims that the Board’s lawyer gave her the green light to continue her participation in the selection process because her immediate family had no financial interest in Pepper. Did the Board’s lawyer do an independent investigation of Golan’s financial interests or did he accept her assertion that she had none? Did the Board’s lawyer explore whether Golan’s husband’s law firm represents Pepper, in which case the contract award could well have been at least an indirect financial benefit to her immediate family?
Regardless of whether Golan’s disclosure can fairly be characterized as “public” and regardless of whether Golan had any financial interest in Pepper, the uncontested facts reveal that her involvement on the Selection Committee may have been inappropriate. Indeed, Golan’s act of recusing herself from the final Board vote on the award showed her hesitation.
The Golan/Moorman lawsuit does bring front and center a fundamental problem that exists on many school boards throughout Illinois. Candidates for school board positions are chosen and supported by local caucuses, but not before vetting has been done to make certain the candidates are in tune with what the administration and superintendent wish to happen. This is why very seldom does an independent candidate get elected to a board position, especially one who will not toe the line or rubber stamp every issue brought up for a vote.
Having a reformer like Ted Moorman on the Lake Forest District 115 School Board is a breath of fresh air. For too long school board members of Lake Forest District 115 have functioned as "yes" men and women for whatever the superintendent desired.
Author's Disclaimer: Mrs. Thorner endorsed Ted Moorman for Lake Forest District 115 School Board in the recent election.