Cook County state’s attorney demands school board president with felony resign
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org December 28, 2012 10:48AM
Thornton Township High School District 205 School Board President Kenneth Williams. | Provided photo
Updated: January 30, 2013 6:08AM
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office is demanding that the president of a south suburban school district step down because of a felony conviction.
On Dec. 21, the office sent a letter to Kenneth Williams, the board president of Thornton Township High School District 205, giving him until Jan. 15 to resign, said Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
If he doesn’t resign or respond to the letter by the deadline, the state’s attorney will file a lawsuit seeking his removal, Daly said.
The state’s attorney’s office is acting on a complaint that Williams has a felony conviction.
Cook County prosecutors confirmed he was convicted of forgery in Indiana in 1985. The Illinois election code makes Williams ineligible to hold elected office as a member of a school board because of the felony, according to the state’s attorney’s office.
Under state law, the attorney general and state’s attorney have the power to file a lawsuit asking a judge to enforce the law preventing felons from sitting on school boards.
Williams, who is up for re-election April 9, did not return calls for comment made to his south suburban home and to his barber college. He refers to himself as board president on his Twitter account. His name and photo remain on the district’s web site.
While running, unsuccessfully, for the state house in 2010, he told the Sun-Times in an election questionnaire that he spent almost three years in prison. He also wrote about his participation on 205’s school board.
Thornton Township High School District 205 serves almost 6,000 students with three schools in South Holland, Harvey and Dolton, according to its 2011 state school report card.
Its board has been in turmoil for several years — with some members accusing Williams of interfering with the school district’s day-to-day operations, said Anthony Bass, an attorney representing the district.
Williams, for example, sought to have the power to sign purchase orders and put his name on the district’s checks, Bass said. That’s the role of the superintendent and the township, he said.
Williams, his wife, Toni Williams, and another board member form one bloc on the school board; four board members form the opposition.
Williams’ opponents on the board have been pushing for his removal, Bass said.
Bass said he supports the move by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office to oust Williams.
“I take the same position as the state’s attorney,” he said. “I can’t change the law. The law says that a convicted felon can’t serve on the board.”
Earlier this year, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that another south suburban school board president, Janet Rogers, also has a felony background.
In 2002, she was convicted of felony theft and state benefits fraud, and was sentenced to 180 days in jail.
At the time, the convictions knocked her off a Harvey school board.
But she later changed her name from Janet Thomas to Janet Rogers, and she’s now the board president of Harvey School District 152.
Attorneys for Rogers and the school board have argued her latest election to the Harvey school board was legal.
In June, the chief of staff for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told the Sun-Times that Rogers’ background raised “serious concerns,” and the office was reviewing its next steps.
Madigan spokeswoman Maura Possley said Friday that no definitive actions have yet been taken against Rogers.
And Harvey School District 152’s web site still lists Rogers as president of the board.
Contributing: Lauren FitzPatrick