Resident calls for Harlem resignations

n Alleges ethics violations

A resident of the Harlem School District has asked two board members to resign because of alleged violations of the board’s ethics code. Both board members have said they will not step down.

Linda Young, a grandmother with several students in Harlem schools, addressed the board June 9, and referred to the Harlem Board of Education Code of Ethics. One part of the code states, “I shall avoid any conflict of interest or the appearance of impropriety which could result from my position and shall not use my school board membership for personal gain of publicity.”

Young alleges board members Mark “Duggan” Floyd and Michael Letsinger violated this portion of the conduct code. Young cited a June 4 article in The Rock River Times titled “State’s attorney won’t prosecute Harlem official” during her address to the board.

The article described how businesses where Letsinger and Floyd were employed received school contracts worth tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars last fiscal year. Letsinger and Floyd said they acted on advice from board attorney Robb Cooper of the law firm of Ottosen Trevarthen Britz Kelly & Cooper, Ltd., which has three offices in the Chicago area.

Letsinger works for Pearson Plumbing and Heating—a division of Stenstrom Companies, Ltd. Floyd works for Hughes Business Technologies, Inc.

The Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s office warned the Harlem School Board several months ago if it continued to award contracts that violate either the public School Code or Public Officers Prohibited Activities Act (POPAA), it would “prosecute,” said Chuck Prorok, deputy state’s attorney.

State’s Attorney Paul Logli said his office will not prosecute a fiscal year 2002 violation of the School Code because Floyd acted on advice from Cooper. Gary Kovanda, assistant state’s attorney, said the amounts to Pearson did not violate either the School Code or the POPAA.

Kovanda said Letsinger and Floyd should have reported their economic interests to the county clerk last year but wasn’t sure if they violated the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act by not doing so. Letsinger and Floyd disclosed the needed information on the 2003-2004 statements, according to county records and Kovanda.

When asked whether he had plans to step down, Letsinger said, “Definitely not.” Letsinger said that had Young read the article more closely, she probably would not have asked him to resign. Letsinger added that he works in a service and repair business, not new construction. Under emergency situations, bids are often not possible, which is where some of the $21,102 to Pearson was generated last year, Letsinger said.

Kovanda said in the fiscal year 2002, Harlem contracted with Hughes for a total of $377,709. Kovanda said the amount violated the School Code but not the POPAA because Floyd is an employee of Hughes.

Floyd said the board welcomes comments, and Young has the right to address the board. However, Floyd said the number of issues Young has frequently brought to the board calls her claims into question.

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