D229 Board Denounces Unapproved Face Mask Lawsuit By Board Member


OAK LAWN, IL β€” A petition has been filed in court seeking to remove Oak Lawn Community High School Dist. 229’s name from a lawsuit filed by a rogue school board member against the governor and state school superintendent over the face mask mandate, as COVID-19 cases climb.

The school board held a special meeting Monday to discuss the lawsuit filed by Robert Cruz in Cook County Circuit Court "individually and in his official capacity" as a D229 school board member. The lawsuit named Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Carmen Ayala, director of the Illinois State Board of Education, as defendants.

"You should have stopped at ‘individually,’" said the board’s legal counsel Burt Odelson. "As the board knows, a board member cannot act individually, that there has to be a majority vote to do anything. Because of the manner the lawsuit was turned in, it appears that Oak Lawn Community High School District 229 is a plaintiff suing the governor and the ISBE superintendent, attempting to stop the mask mandate."

>>> D229 Board Member Sues Pritzker, Ayala, Over Face Mask Order

Odelson told board members that Cruz’s lawsuit "put the district in dire jeopardy" for liability and at risk of being placed on probation by the governor, which could lead to a loss of accreditation and funding if Dist. 229 gave the appearance of defying the mandate requiring students, faculty and staff to wear face coverings inside school buildings. Dozens of school districts around the state have been put on probation for refusing to follow the face covering order since Pritzker issued his mandate for schools on Aug. 4.

"God forbid a student or staff member gets COVID and there are dire consequences, and we get sued," Odelson said. "We don’t know a lot about the disease. We don’t know if one of our students contracted the disease because someone did or didn’t wear a mask. If we comply with the mandates of the Illinois Department of Public Health, the ISBE and the governor, we shield our school district from potential liability."

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is defending Pritzker and Ayala in the lawsuit. On Monday, the attorney general filed a motion to move Cruz’s lawsuit to the chancery division of Cook County Circuit Court, after it had been misfiled as a "verified complaint" in county division by Cruz’s attorneys, Rick Munoz, of Joliet, and Mike Yoder, a Washington, D.C.-area attorney who specializes in constitutional litigation. Yoder has filed similar lawsuits against elected officials over COVID-19 mandates throughout the country.

"The attorney general is very active," Odelson told board members. "I would anticipate that they’re going to move very expeditiously to attempt to dismiss the case. The AG has acted quicker than I’ve seen him act on any case."

Odelson said that it is unlikely that Dist. 229 will be able to recoup legal costs to get the district’s name out of Cruz’s lawsuit.

"Hearing all this and knowing all this and what we’re going through, are you going to help us get the name off the documents," D229 president Rob Loehr asked Cruz.

Cruz said he would take it up with his legal team.

"My intent was never to pull the board in, it was just to declare my standing in the community as an elected official," Cruz said. "Implying you’re a member of the board, or on behalf of a board, seems to be a legal crux."

Cruz denied his lawsuit was about the state’s face mask mandate for schools, but about the governor’s overreach. "If you actually read the thing, that’s what it said."

Other D229 board members also had harsh words for Cruz.

"People out there aren’t pleased with the way you handled this at all," Matt Egan said. "We’re supposed to be acting as a team, as a group coming together to share ideas and a common direction to move forward."

"There are a lot of people who are pleased," Cruz replied. "There are people on both sides of the issue. There are people who feel like things are getting away from us."

D229 board member Tim Burke said it would have been common courtesy for Cruz to give his fellow board members a heads-up that the lawsuit was being filed.

"Rob, I don’t know how you can stay on this board," Burke told Cruz.

Since Cruz’s election to D229 school board this past April, he has declared his candidacy for the Illinois 3rd Congressional Distric and U.S. Senate GOP primaries in 2022, according to Ballotpedia.

"I truly believe you’re just using this [board] as a stepping stone to further yourself in politics," Loehr said. "There was nothing in your candidate questionnaire about your running for the senate. You never mentioned to the board that you’re doing that."

"I didn’t know I had to," Cruz said. "I want to keep that business outside the board. It was specifically not discussed because this is not board business."

Odelson suggested the least cost to the district’s taxpayers would be to file a petition for intervention in the lawsuit and "get out."

The Dist. 229 school board also passed a resolution, stating that no taxpayer funds were used to support Cruz’s lawsuit, and that the district fully intended to fully comply with the COVID-19 orders and mandates from the governor and other state agencies.

The board passed the resolution 5-0. Judith Ott was absent from the special board meeting, and Cruz abstained.

~ Patch followed this meeting virtually.

via Oak Lawn, IL Patch

August 28, 2021 at 07:53AM

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