This is in response to the Aug. 18 Wednesday Journal editorial titled, “Priory bidding is a closed circle.”
It is right for our local paper to call out actual and potential conflicts of interest that our community leaders may have. Ignoring even potential conflicts undeniably weakens any board and the institutions they represent. Lawyers particularly and laypersons alike understand this concept.
However, in this case the Priory bidding process is between Dominican University, and potential buyers of the Priory property. Statements such as “It’s a free country. Developers, make your bids and we’ll consider them” will encourage creative bids and signals a willingness to be flexible. Existing and agreed upon village board long-term strategic plans that value green space should be followed. Ongoing zoning discussions are a vital part of such strategic visions for any village and surely will continue. We are all hopeful the bidding process produces the best outcome for River Forest and surrounding communities as the process moves forward.
In this instance, our local paper seemed to quickly criticize and call out a local volunteer leader for saying, “It’s a free country. Developers, make your bids and we’ll consider them.” Such statements will bring creative value to the process and help our communities in the long run. Yet WJ went as far as to suggest a government and school volunteer leader should have already resigned her school board position due to a conflict. School is just starting, and I would think local school boards need all the energy and volunteers they can find.
Various board discussions and documents will offer insight as to the timing of negotiations, interested parties, contracts and actual agreements regarding the Priory property. There may indeed come a time for recusing or resigning, which President Adduci understands and acknowledges. She would do so to retain the integrity of both of the boards on which she serves. To suggest that such a time has already come in this process and that something nefarious has already happened seems a tad aggressive.
Which brings us to another community high school a few blocks north of Fenwick. I hope this paper is an equal opportunity conflict-of-interest “pointer-outer.” I applaud one OPRF High School board member who recently resigned a position based upon a potential conflict around fundraising. However, there are other active OPRF board members who have teacher union interests, including financial, that could pose conflicts when negotiating such contracts. Our community should understand these conflicts just the same. I am hopeful our community paper offers the same level of scrutiny and can help our community understand these issues as well.
Looking forward, OPRF has an important upcoming teacher union contract to negotiate. Will our local and independent paper be so quick to ask conflicted board members to resign or refuse support from teacher unions? Is it already too late, as was suggested in this case? I hope that honest constructive criticism and praise is offered toward both our local high schools by our independent and local nonprofit newspaper. We would all benefit from such reporting.
Let’s keep everything on the up and up and live by our own school motto: Those Things That are Best. Before anyone suggests I have a bias for Fenwick, please note that I am a proud OPRF alumnus.
Ross Lissuzzo is an Oak Park native and River Forest resident.