KANKAKEE — At Monday’s board meeting, Kankakee Valley Park District Executive Director Dayna Heitz brought up a communications issue she was having with one of the commissioners.
Heitz said she had concerns regarding emails and texts she had received from board member Derek Mullady.
“I would like to request the board for a general consensus not to have communications with commissioner Mullady outside this board meeting because he is a bully, he harasses and he calls names,” Heitz said.
Heitz said that Mullady called her a liar several times in the email and has also called her out in open meetings about statements she’s made about district business.
“He continually calls me a liar,” Heitz said. “I am not. I’ve been called a liar because I didn’t have a comprehensive capital plan, which I never said we had a capital plan that was comprehensive. I said we have one that’s been put together by staffing and board members. I’m tired of being bullied and being harassed.
“If you want to speak to me or you have commentary or have questions, you can email them and I will address them at the board meeting,” she said.
“This is a professional board or supposed to be. That’s not the way you treat people.”
Board members then discussed whether they could limit the interaction between Mullady and Heitz. Board member JJ Hollis suggested Mullady go to board president Bill Spriggs with his concerns rather than address them directly with district staff.
“If he has concerns, we still want his concerns to be met,” Hollis said. “If you’re saying communications are breaking down, we need to try figure out a way that you all can communicate.”
The board, through commissioners forum, tried to find common ground on how to fix the breakdown. Mullady presented his side of the interactions with Heitz.
“I’ve caught her in several non-truths,” Mullady said. “If [calling you] a ‘liar’ is going to hurt your feelings, then I’ll say non-truths. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, generally it’s a duck.”
Mullady referenced that in a previous board meeting Heitz said an Ice Valley Center Ice Arena staff member saved a man’s life from a heart attack.
“It was a bald-faced lie,” he said. “It was a mother that was a nurse that brought the guy back to life. ... Why even lie about it? But she did. ... She tells partial truths, so I guess you’re really not a liar but you still don’t tell the whole truth. So I don’t know how you want to categorize that.”
Mullady said one of the defibrillators didn’t work, and someone had to run down and get the other defibrillator.
“She’s not telling you guys everything,” he said. “I’ve brought it up and showed you several facts. Everyone allows her to keep lying, or non-truths or whatever you want to call it.”
Mullady also referenced other issues, including pay increases for the district’s union employees.
“She does whatever she wants,” he said. “If I call her out on things, then I’m just picking on her. ... I’m just pointing out non-truths, and you guys don’t want to hear them.”
In an series of emails on June 10 between Mullady and Heitz, Mullady took issue with the amount of a proposed pay increase for two union employees. In that communication, Mullady called Heitz and liar and said that she must not believe in karma.
In response to the email thread, Spriggs asked Mullady to change his tone on his communication with Heitz.
“I’ve read the email,” Spriggs said. “I think that you’d be more successful in convincing her or communicating with her if you don’t write stuff like this. ... There’s a way to state your complaint. If you change your approach, you might have more success.”
Heitz addressed Mullady about telling “partial truths.”
“Maybe I give you the information that I have,” Heitz said.
Board member Dave Skelly said the board has given Heitz the opportunity to operate the district, including contracts.
“I truly wish there was a way that we could become a professional board and be productive. We’re at two hours now, and we’re not even in executive session yet,” he said of Monday’s meeting.
“It’s a lot of bickering and arguing, and I certainly don’t like functioning that way. ... I certainly support that [Heitz] should not feel like you are being bullied.”
Board attorney David Freeman addressed legal issues about the communications and how the courts look at statements that could have liability repercussions.
“If Dayna is saying ‘I feel harassed, I feel bullied,’ that’s going to be a problem,” Freeman said. “... I think that commissioner Mullady has brought up some really interesting, good points during the six months that I’ve been here. But what this is about, in my view, it’s not whether he’s bringing up a good point or an interesting point, Dayna is saying that it’s the way he does it.”
Mullady said he was offended by being called a bully and that his email was harmless, but said that he would “step back” on his communications.
Heitz said that was agreeable to her. Going forward, board members agreed on being more civil in discussions.