BOURBONNAIS — The Bourbonnais Elementary School District is keeping under wraps records related to the investigation of outgoing Superintendent Dan Hollowell.
In a letter this week, Jim Duggan, who is filling in as superintendent, denied the Daily Journal’s request to see the documents about Hollowell.
Late last month, the school board suspended Hollowell for 30 days without pay, pending his resignation or termination proceedings. The action was in response to a sexual harassment complaint.
The records in question, Duggan said, are exempt from disclosure under the state’s open records law. He used various reasons: Some of the documents relate to the district’s adjudication of disciplinary cases, others include internal communications between the district and its lawyer, still others contain information related to the employee who filed the complaint.
“The information his highly personal and, if released, would be objectionable to a reasonable person,” Duggan wrote. “The complainant’s right to privacy outweighs any legitimate public interest in obtaining the information.”
Under state law, records relating to adjudication of disciplinary cases are generally open after their “final outcome.”
The school board appears to have taken final action in Hollowell’s case. When it voted to suspend him June 28, it did so under an item on its agenda labeled “final disciplinary outcome following board’s adjudication of employee grievance.”
Duggan referred to “disciplinary cases,” though the Daily Journal was seeking information involving just one.
Government bodies regularly disclose records after personnel issues are resolved. Over the last month, both Bradley and Kankakee have released documents related to closed disciplinary matters.
In 2014, a state appeals court ruled police disciplinary records were public in a case involving the Chicago Police Department. In response, a watchdog group set up a database of complaints against Chicago officers.
The school district’s attorney, Shelli Anderson, who looked into the harassment complaint, declined to say whether she gave a written or verbal report of her findings to the board.
A couple days before the June school board meeting, the Daily Journal obtained a letter from the board to reading coordinator Michelle Brosseau, who filed the complaint. In that document, the board informed Brosseau that it found the superintendent has violated its policies in relation to her allegations.
The board believes it still has the right to keep that document from the public, Anderson said. Blacking out references identifying the employee would be futile, she said.
“The name is out there. It was in the newspaper,” she said.
Releasing the information, the lawyer said, would constitute an invasion of privacy.
In early March, Brosseau filed a complaint against Hollowell, who became superintendent in 2013. She alleged the superintendent made inappropriate comments toward her.
A reading teacher, Michelle Erickson, made a similar complaint during the June meeting. Brosseau stood next to her.
Hollowell made $156,000 in 2018, according to OpenTheBooks.com. He has been with the district for more than a decade.
The school board says it will search for a new superintendent. Duggan has not said whether he would apply for the permanent position.
Hollowell couldn’t be reached for comment.