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Gov. Quinn pardons school board president Lisa Madigan tried to oust

Janet Rogers president Harvey School District 152.

Janet Rogers, president, Harvey School District 152.

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Updated: May 22, 2013 6:43AM

Janet Rogers was a school board president with two felony convictions — and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wanted to run her out of office.

Madigan’s prosecutors put Rogers in jail for theft and fraud in 2004.

And Madigan’s office believed Rogers had no business being on a school board in 2013.

Earlier this year, Madigan’s lawyers asked a judge to boot Rogers off the board of Harvey Public School District 152 because she was “unlawfully holding and executing the office of a board member.”

But even before the judge could make a decision, Rogers got help from someone up higher in Illinois government.

The governor.

Last month, Gov. Pat Quinn pardoned Rogers for her crimes and expunged those convictions from her record.

The decision could help Rogers — now no longer a convicted felon — keep her board seat.

In an interview last week, Rogers denied using any clout to get her pardon.

“I’m ecstatic that it happened,” Rogers said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Rogers’ clemency petition came as news to lawyers in Madigan’s office, according to a spokeswoman.

“We’re taking a look at how this development affects our case,” Madigan’s spokeswoman, Natalie Bauer, said.

The governor pardoned Rogers on March 29. She was one of 87 people who received pardons that day.

Rogers’ clemency petition didn’t mention the attorney general’s lawsuit seeking to remove her from office, authorities said.

Each person who sought clemency underwent a criminal background check through an Illinois State Police database.

“The governor makes his decisions based on the facts and merits of each case,” said his spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson. “He has been working very hard to eliminate the backlog of more than 2,000 clemency petitions he inherited from his predecessor.”

Anderson declined to elaborate beyond that statement.

With pardon in hand, Rogers plans to go to court to ask a judge to dismiss the attorney general’s lawsuit, her attorney, John Izzo, said.

The governor’s decision brought praise from Rogers’ friends and fans.

Lela Bridges-Webb, a retired superintendent for the Harvey school district, said she could “not think of a more deserving person for the pardon.”

Still, Rogers called her exoneration bittersweet.

Her son Derrick Fromby — a co-defendant in her felony case — died of cancer three years ago at the age of 29.

“I put in for this two years ago,” she said of her petition. “I do have a sadness because my son is not here to celebrate with me.”

Rogers was convicted of felony theft and state benefits fraud in 2004. She falsified her income to get a better financial aid package for her son’s college education, said the attorney general’s office.

Rogers was sentenced to 180 days in jail, fined $7,000 and ordered to pay back more than $10,000 to the state and federal governments. She voluntarily left the board after her conviction. At the time, she was known as Janet Thomas.

“The nightmare began for Mrs. Rogers over 10 years ago,” said her spokesman, Melvin Caldwell. “She has always maintained her innocence. What happened to her and Derrick was a result of relying on a rogue financial aid adviser. The financial aid adviser died prior to her trial.”

Rogers continued to teach in another school district where she had worked, Bloom Township High School District 206, until she retired in 2010.

The following year, she won a new seat on the board of Harvey Public School District 152 under her married name, Janet Rogers. The board, which includes her husband, Tyrone Rogers, appointed her president.

Janet Rogers is now presiding over major changes in the school district. The board recently launched a search to replace the district’s controversial superintendent, Eric Kellogg, who retired on Feb. 28. He will continue to serve in the position until June 30, officials said.

Kellogg, who is also mayor of south suburban Harvey, became superintendent of the school district in 2010. Two of his relatives on the school board voted for Kellogg to become superintendent. He was installed by a 4-3 vote.

At the time, Harvey Alderman Keith Price questioned how Kellogg could serve as mayor of the city and superintendent of the schools at the same time.

Rogers wasn’t the only convicted felon to sit on a school board in the south suburbs.

The president of a nearby high school board is embroiled in a similar fight.

Kenneth Williams, president of Thornton Township High Schools District 205, was convicted of forgery in Indiana in 1985 and sentenced to five years in prison, records show. He’s facing a lawsuit by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to remove him from office because he’s a felon.

Several board members support the effort to oust Williams. In January, they sent a letter to State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez alleging that Williams and two other board members — including Williams’ wife — were trying to control the district’s finances and “employ family and friends.”

Still, Williams, a barber, was re-elected to the school board in the April 9 municipal elections.

In fact, he was the top vote-getter.

The high school district serves more than 5,000 students in Harvey, Dolton and South Holland.

On Thursday, the state’s attorney’s office filed court papers asking a Cook County judge to issue a judgment against Williams, alleging that he didn’t respond to a summons within the required 30 days. A hearing on the matter is set for Tuesday.

In January, the school district received notice from the Illinois Department of Health Care and Family Services that Williams owed more than $50,000 in child support, records show. He could not be reached for comment.

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