With the sole objection from Board member Gretchen Livingston, the District 202 School Board on Sept. 16 approved a sponsorship agreement with Oakton Community College for the coming year. Oakton will pay a total of $6,500 to have signage at Lazier Field Memorial Stadium and in Beardsley Gymnasium for the year.
Under the agreement, Oakton Community College will mount up to six signs, each three feet by eight feet, on the fence by the south end zone. Up to 10 signs, each two feet by eight feet, will hang from balcony rails in Beardsley Gym.
The Board also approved an agreement with WCIU-TV to broadcast the Evanston Township High School homecoming game. ETHS will receive no financial compensation from nor pay any to the television station, but will allow the Vrdolyak Law Group Robert Morris University to set up tables and tent cards at ETHS, because they are both sponsors of WCIU-TV.
Ms. Livingston said, “We have a deal with a TV station to do filming of some of our sporting events – so we are obligated to have the TV station sponsors at the events.”
She felt having Oakton Community College’s signs and banners was acceptable but said, “I’ve got a variety of problems with entering into an agreement with a TV station that allows their sponsors to then appear on our property. I think we cross a line when we allow TV station sponsors to show up and set up a table on ETHS property.”
She said she would not go through a “list of horribles” but did say that is possible that some of the television sponsors might be enterprises whose values do not match ETHS’s – gun dealers, for example, or a political organization. “I think we run the risk, or it could look like we endorse these things.”
Ms. Livingston added, “With regard to the Vrdolyak Law Group, I have specific issues. I think anybody out there could Google Ed Vrdolyak and figure out the problem – the legal trouble he’s had over the years, including really recently.”
Ed Vrdolyak, 81, is a former Chicago alderman. In March of this year he pled guilty to a charge of federal tax evasion. In 2007, he pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Three of Mr. Vrdolyak’s sons are listed lawyers in Vrdolyak Law Group. Ed Vrdolyak is not listed, though at one time he was a lawyer with the firm.
Ms. Livingston said at the meeting she had emailed ETHS administrators about her objections and added there was nothing she could do about it. After she made her objections, Board President Pat Savage-Williams called for a vote approving the athletic sponsorships, and the Board approved them 6-0.
Asked by the RoundTable whether the Board had an obligation to approve the contract, she referred to the Board policy. Section 8 covers “Commercial Companies and Political Candidates or Parties”
It reads in part, “Commercial companies may purchase space for their advertisements in or on: (1) athletic field fences; (2) athletic, theater, or music programs; (3) scoreboards; or (4) other appropriate location. The advertisements must be consistent with this policy and its implementing procedures and must be approved by the School Board.” The section also states, in apparent contradiction, “Prior approval from the Superintendent or designee is needed for all commercial advertisements. The Board will be informed of prior approval at the next scheduled board meeting.”