Cicero Township Schools Office plans records dump

Officials say they'll only destroy records not required to be kept

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By DREW CARTER

The Cicero Township School Treasurer's Office plans to dump its records dating back more than a decade, keeping only those listed on an attorney general's office website, the treasurer said earlier this month.

The announcement came at the July 11 regular quarterly meeting of the Trustees of Schools?#34;the governing body that controls investments for six school districts in Oak Park, Berwyn and Cicero?#34;when the board returned from a mid-meeting closed session and said three new employees had been approved for hire.

The board voted to hire the employees at the end of the meeting, after a reporter asked whether any official action had been taken. Robert Burman?#34;president of the board at the time?#34;and Oak Park resident Bill Sullivan, who was elected to lead the board at a special meeting last week, said they did not realize the Open Meetings Act required the action to be taken in open session.

Schools Treasurer Marty O'Connor said the board had discussed finding a law student to go through "35 years" of records and try to dispose of "33 of them." O'Connor said he obtained a list of what the office needed to keep from an attorney general's office website.

In fact, records disposal is handled by the Illinois State Archives section of the Secretary of State's Office.

Later O'Connor showed the room where records are kept in cardboard boxes and filing cabinets. He then said records probably went back to 1981, when the office moved to its present 1010 Lake St. space.

However, most of the space in the room was taken up by boxes with labels dating them from 2000 or later. He retrieved some records from the cabinets from the early 1990s.

O'Connor said the office hired a law student for the disposal so only the correct documents would be thrown out, and that the office needed to identify what documents it had in order to streamline retrieval.

The office hired Charles Silverman, a law student at DePaul University's College of Law, for $15 an hour.

Sullivan added that the office is seeking a written legal opinion on what can be destroyed, and will take an inventory before destroying any records.

The Local Records Act forbids disposal of public records "except as provided by law." Unlawful destruction of public records is a Class 4 felony.

The act charges the Cook County Local Records Commission with overseeing proper destruction of records. A Local Records Disposal Certificate must be filed with and approved by the commission before any records may be destroyed.

Village of Oak Park Attorney Ray Heise said the village obtains a permitted schedule for disposal of public records.

Also at the meeting, Burman suggested O'Connor bring boxes of unused checks?#34;unusable after a fraud caused the office and its bank to change the account's number?#34;to his print shop for destruction.

At a special meeting July 18 held via teleconference, Sullivan was elected president by a 2-0 vote, with Burman being absent. The 2005-06 budget was also approved, with expenditure increases topping 13 percent over last year's budget.

Sullivan and O'Connor said increases were minor except those associated with software enhancements, two new laser printers and unavoidable state pension payments.

Audit costs also rose $5,000 for the office.

Costs associated with software the office and most of the member districts use will be borne only by those districts. Oak Park districts do not use the software. Oak Park and River Forest High School Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Witham said the overall increase in the treasurer's budget was OK because the software costs didn't impact the high school.

OPRF's contribution to the treasurer's budget went from $47,000 in 2003-04, to $107,000 last year, to a projected $56,000 for the upcoming year.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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