Maywood Park District Commissioner Censured

Sunday, June 9, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Featured image: A Maywood Park District meeting on May 14, when Dawn Rone, the park district board president (fourth from left), reprimanded Commissioner Arnettra Barber-Burnside (second from left). | File

A Maywood Park District commissioner was censured earlier this year by her colleagues for allegedly behaving in a manner “unbecoming of an elected official” during an Illinois Association of Park Districts conference in January and reprimanded last month for reportedly violating board policy. The commissioner has denied both claims.

The park district board voted on March 12 to censure Commissioner Arnettra Barber-Burnside, who has been on the board since 2015.

According to the resolution of censure obtained by Village Free Press, Barber-Burnside “failed and/or refused to conduct herself in a responsible and professional manner that reflected favorably upon the district” while attending an IAPD conference Jan. 24 through Jan. 27 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

The resolution was voted on by Commissioners Alisa Buchmeier, Terrance Jones and Dawn Rone, the board president. Commissioner John Rice abstained. Barber-Burnside was absent during the March 12 meeting.

In the resolution, the commissioners claim that Barber-Burnside “displayed an unbecoming ‘do not disturb’ or ‘bother me’ demeanor towards all persons seated at the table who attempted to engage her in conversation or otherwise interact or socialize with her.”

The commissioners also claimed that Barber-Burnside “rudely and abruptly yelled” at Lonette Hall, the Maywood Park District’s executive director, while the two were checking out from the hotel and that Barber-Burnside “displayed an attitude of antagonism, contention and/or indifference” during a social event at the conference that was “open and obvious to all who were seated at the table, including IAPD and other park district representatives.”

The commissioners said that an IAPD staffer recommended to Hall that the board “give consideration to attending IAPD’s boot camp to learn how a board member should conduct himself or herself.”

The censure resolution also notes that during meetings, Barber-Burnside “without cause or provocation, speaks over or interrupts other board members, and otherwise speaks without being recognized to speak or having the floor in contradiction to the Board’s governing rules of order.”

Hall and Rone declined to comment on the censure. Officials with the IAPD could not be immediately contacted on June 9. Buchmeier said in a phone interview on May 31 that she had a contentious relationship with Barber-Burnside and that the claims in the censure are true, adding that Barber-Burnside’s behavior “is always loud and always confrontational.”

Buchmeier was appointed last year to fill a vacancy created by the death of former commissioner Bill Hampton and lost her bid in April to serve out the remaining two years of Hampton’s term to new commissioner Anthony Harris.

In a phone interview on May 31, Barber-Burnside denied the claims, saying that her colleagues were trying to “assassinate my character.”

During the April 2 election, two candidates that Barber-Burnside supported — Harris and Melody Young — were elected to the 5-person board. They replace Buchmeier and Jones on the board.

The addition of Harris and Young gives Barber-Burnside, who served a term as board president in 2017, a good opportunity to reclaim the position of board president when the commissioners vote to appoint and elect new officers on June 11.

“There is no validity to what is being said,” Barber-Burnside said of the claims about her behavior. “I just think that because there’s a new board, people want to sabotage.”

The March 12 censure wasn’t the only time that sitting board members chastised Barber-Burnside for alleged misbehavior.

During a Board of Commissioners meeting on May 14, when new commissioners were sworn in, Dawn Rone, the current park district board president, reprimanded Barber-Burnside for reportedly violating board policy.

Rone said that Barber-Burnside tried to switch the official May 14 meeting agenda with another agenda that included the nomination and appointment of new board officers and motions to appoint and retain the park district’s accountant and legal counsel. The unlawful agenda was signed by Barber-Burnside, Young and Harris.

During the May 14 meeting, Rone said that on May 12, Barber-Burnside “on her own, and without making any attempt to contact me as this board’s president” told a park district employee “that the agenda that had been timely posted by the district for tonight’s meeting had the incorrect meeting date on it and that she need to post a corrected agenda. Her claim was, and is, utterly false.”

Rone said that “both Commissioner Burnside and the two newly-elected commissioners signed this ‘new’ agenda does not make that agenda or its posting lawful or official,” before explaining that Harris and Young signed the document before they were officially sworn into office.

“Since neither was qualified to accept and assume their positions, both acted without authority in preparing, directing or signing the unofficial agenda that Commissioner Burnside posted on Mother’s Day under false pretenses,” Rone said.

Rone also referenced the park district’s policy manual, which states that annual meetings to elect and appoint new board officers take place in June — not May. The board policy also stipulates that the process for preparing all meeting agendas is a function of the executive director.

Commissioners who want to add particular items to the agenda are required to submit a written request, along with supporting documentation, to the executive director ahead of the meeting.  

“Commissioner Burnside did not submit any written request that any particular item be included on the agenda at any time,” Rone said on May 14. “Instead, she posted her own self-serving agenda without any legal authority, thereby unnecessarily creating a potential for public confusion and scorn.”

Barber-Burnside said she and the other two commissioners requested a special meeting, but that once Rone “said there would not be a meeting, it was no meeting.”

When asked about the separate meeting agenda that she and the other commissioners apparently signed, Barber-Burnside said that she was not aware of the document and that it could have been doctored. VFP

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