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Court may unseal Dist. 200 superintendent contract
By James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff

Gary Catalani

 

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Published: 6/12/2008 4:06 PM | Updated: 6/12/2008 10:28 PM

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Former Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 Superintendent Gary Catalani is long retired.

But an appellate court decision this week ensures that the fight to keep Catalani's employment contract private will continue.

As a result of the ruling, a DuPage County judge must take another look the contract and determine if any of it is public information.

The case may have the potential of keeping the employment contracts of all public officials from public scrutiny.

Until this week, District 200 successfully argued that Catalani's contract isn't a public document because it's kept in a personnel file.

The district also keeps current Superintendent Richard Drury's employment contract in a personnel file and believes it, too, is not a public document.

Educate 200 member and former District 200 school board candidate Mark Stern filed a lawsuit against the district when he was denied a copy of Catalani's contract two years ago.

District 200's reasoning relies on an old case in Peoria where the local newspaper sought performance evaluations of a school superintendent. A court blocked the newspaper's attempt because the evaluations were located in a personnel file.

A DuPage circuit judge relied on that decision in rejecting Stern's lawsuit.

Stern appealed.

This week, an appellate court rejected the DuPage ruling.

Now a DuPage judge must review Catalani's contract. The judge must determine if the contract contains any private information that should be redacted before it is released to Stern and the public.

"It's a real good decision for us," said attorney Shawn Collins, whose firm represents Stern in the case. "I hope soon we'll be getting the contract."

That may not happen just yet.

District 200 spokesman Robert Rammer said staff will review the appellate court's ruling and get a recommendation from the district's attorney before deciding whether to continue fighting the case.

If the legal fight continues, the Illinois Supreme Court may have to decide if it will review the arguments.

A secondary, but related, issue also lingers.

The Daily Herald did obtain a copy of Catalani's contract upon request. Stern has argued that since the newspaper received a copy the district cannot block anyone else from having a copy. That issue also remains for a DuPage judge to decide.