DeKALB – Sarah Slavenas has been on a crusade to expose and attack what she says is wrongdoing by the executive director of the DeKalb Park District, a campaign that culminated with a lengthy outburst at a public meeting on Monday.
After Slavenas, of Genoa, railed against the director and pointed fingers at park commissioners and an audience member, board President Phil Young stopped the meeting, and eventually called police to escort Slavenas out. Slavenas left before officers arrived.
The reason for Slavenas’ ire is reminiscent of a plotline on the TV show “Parks and Recreation.” A romantic relationship between Amy Doll, the district’s executive director, and a former employee was disclosed to the park board in September 2016. Craig Wilson, then superintendent of golf operations, resigned shortly after, records show.
“This is not personal, I don’t know her, I don’t care about her,” Slavenas shouted about Doll in response to an audience member on Monday. “... This is no different than Ms. [Anita] Hill, this is no different than the CEO of McDonalds being removed for sleeping with a subordinate. You all should get it together, and if you don’t, shame on you.”
“You’re out of line,” Young replied to Slavenas. “This is an example of public comment that is not acceptable in a civilized society.”
Doll walked out sometime during Slavenas’ comments, but later returned for the remainder of the meeting.
“All parties came to a mutually acceptable decision,” Doll said Wednesday of the 2016 matter.
Over the past few weeks, Slavenas’ public campaign included a Letter to the Editor, which she also shared around social media and on government agencies’ Facebook pages.
“The executive director informed me that she was in a romantic relationship with a district employee,” Young said by email Tuesday. “I informed the rest of the board, and the district’s anti-nepotism policy was followed. This incident was over 3 years ago and the board considers this matter closed.”
In a Sept. 30, 2016, letter of resignation written by Wilson to the park board, he offered to resign instead of Doll, saying he was told by the board one of them would have to quit, otherwise a vote would be taken regarding firing both of them.
“I suggested that I would be willing to stay on until the end of the Buena Vista season in order to help out the staff ... and any transition,” Wilson’s letter stated. “President Young indicated that this was not an option that the district would consider.”
Slavenas said Wednesday she became aware of the relationship when she began requesting documents through FOIA from the park district to look into turnover in the golf program, and found Wilson’s letter. She said she wants the board to explain why Doll kept her job while Wilson didn’t.
“The board should never have allowed them to make that decision, they’re there to oversee Doll,” Slavenas said. “As a lifelong advocate of people who are exploited by those who use their positions of power to abuse others I wanted to learn more.”
Many attendees were less than pleased with Slavenas’ rant on Monday, which was captured on video. They said Slavenas was using the wrong forum at a meeting meant for families and to discuss the future of the park district’s golf courses. One audience member warned “she’s going to ruin it for everybody.”
“I want to say one thing,” another audience member said speaking to Slavenas when her interruptions threatened to halt the meeting. “We all came here to speak, so if you could please stop, we’d appreciate it.”