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Trustee: MCC has until June for Smith vote

Published: Monday, April 15, 2013 5:33 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 8:40 p.m. CDT

CRYSTAL LAKE – As the college's governing board considers extending the contract of its president, questions remain about whether the board is acting too quickly.

The McHenry County College board has until June 15 to call a formal vote on continuing President Vicky Smith's employment agreement, according to MCC Trustee Cynthia Kisser, who cited Smith's latest contract.

The board must evaluate Smith on her job performance and inform her of those results by May 1, Kisser said.

Smith's current contract was not made available to the Northwest Herald, but a copy was requested Monday through the Freedom of Information Act.

The college called a special meeting Tuesday night in which trustees will vote on continuing Smith's contract through 2015. Board Chairwoman Mary Miller called the meeting but did not return calls for comment.

Tonight's meeting will be one of the last for a lame-duck board before three newly elected trustees take office. Concerned citizens and one sitting trustee have urged the board not to vote until the new trustees are seated. They will be sworn in April 25, after the final meeting of the outgoing board.

“[Smith’s contract is] already in place through June [2014], and it seems to me, beyond that period should be determined by the trustees being seated this month, with whom she will be working those two years,” Trustee Ron Parrish has said.

But the question remains: Who is responsible for extending Smith's contract – those who already have completed the detailed evaluation of her performance, or those who will be working with her through the duration of the agreement?

The responsible thing to do, Kisser argued, is leave the vote to the trustees who have gone through the evaluation process, which started in March. A vote on her contract by the newcomers is unfair to Smith because the new trustees would have to rely on "cursory information" to make an important decision, she said.

"How can they know just coming on the board," Kisser asked. "They are not qualified to evaluate the president [yet] and don't have enough familiarity with [the board's evaluations]."

The meeting has some questioning whether the college is in violation of the Open Meetings Act. The agenda was made public late Friday. College officials say it was posted on the school's website by 4:30 p.m., but the Northwest Herald didn't receive an email notification until an hour later.

A clerical error left the public comment portion off the initial agenda. The error was corrected and a new agenda – one allowing time for public comment – was posted.

Other than the agenda, there is no further information made public nor will there be before the meeting, college officials said. The college typically makes its board packet available to the public, though it's not required to do so. Information shared with the board before the meeting also was the subject of the Northwest Herald's FOIA request.

Furthermore, some argue the agenda was not explicit enough in informing the public it intends to vote. A new provision in the Open Meetings Act requires that an agenda include the "general subject matter" of any issue that will be up for a final vote.

The Northwest Herald asked the Attorney General's Public Access Counselor to weigh in on whether the agenda was in violation.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the college's boardroom. A nonvoting Committee of the Whole meeting will follow.

Smith was hired with a three-year contract in June 2010 at a starting annual salary of $195,000. Her base pay in fiscal 2012 was $200,850, according to the Illinois Community College Board. Her contract was renewed last May through 2014.

If you go

What: MCC special board meeting

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Boardroom, A217, at the college, 8900 Route 14, Crystal Lake

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