Gary referendum complaint dismissed

An attempt by one voter to get the Lake County election board to rescind the $71 referendum approved in 2020 to benefit the Gary Community School Corp. has been put to rest for good.

The Lake County Board of Elections and Voters Registration Tuesday dismissed “now and forever more” the complaint filed by former president of the Gary schools advisory committee Robert Buggs in 2020, asking that the election board rule that former Gary Schools Interim Emergency Manager Dr. Paige McNulty did not have the authority to go out for the $71 million referendum, thus rescinding it.

Carly Brandenburg, the Republican attorney for the board, said the matter has been a long-standing unresolved issue before the board. Democratic Attorney Michael Tolbert recused himself from the discussion because of his work with McNulty. Brandenburg said she went back through documentation and recordings of board hearings that have been conducted on the matter since the complaint was originally filed.

When the board last heard Buggs’ arguments in 2022, members requested two pieces of additional information. In the fall of 2023, Buggs provided one portion of the information.

Brandenburg said board members dealt with the issue of whether McNulty could add the referendum in a 2020 hearing on the matter. The board at the time unanimously moved to dismiss the complaint.

“This issue (is) the board has said is not our issue,” Brandenburg said.

McNulty was named to lead the school system in February 2020 by MGT Consulting, a turnaround company chosen by the state to run the district. The law taking over Gary schools conferred on the appointee all powers of a superintendent hired by an elected school board.

Buggs had asked the board to find McNulty was not authorized to pursue a referendum because she was not elected.

“If you have an issue with what she did, the issue is with state law,” Brandenburg said.

Board member Michael Mellon made the motion to dismiss the complaint “now and forever more.”

cnapoleon@chicagotribune.com