Thornton Township High School District 205 suspends superintendent
BY CASEY TONER Sun-Times Media June 14, 2013 12:38AM
Thornton Township High School District 205 School Board President Kenneth Williams. | Provided photo
A lawsuit seeking to remove Ken Williams, Thornton Township High School District 205’s School Board president, hasn’t stopped Williams from making a big change.
Williams and the board voted Wednesday to suspend Supt. John Thomas with pay pending an investigation. It wasn’t clear why Thomas is under investigation, and Thomasdid not return multiple phone calls. Thomas has two years left on a three-year contract.
Williams and his wife, Toni Williams, the board’s secretary; Vice President Darren Robinson, and Judith Gibbs voted to suspend Thomas. Lauren Green abstained, and Bernadette Lawrence voted against the suspension, saying, “They just trumped up some charges. There’s nothing the man did that was egregious.”
Lawrence said Thomas was suspended because he refused to sign off on legal bills incurred by the district for an investigation to determine whether Thomas was properly certified to be a superintendent.
In a memo sent to board members Wednesday, Thomas said the district was being billed more than $2,700 by the firm Robbins Schwartz for investigating him from August to September 2012. The memo also said the district never got a copy of the investigation’s findings, and the fee wasn’t paid because the board never agreed to the investigation.
It wasn’t clear who approved the investigation. But Robbins Schwartz since has been retained as a District 205 attorney, according to the memo, and an invoice submitted by the Robbins Schwartz firm indicates Williams was in contact with the firm as it investigated Thomas.
On Sept. 4, 2012, an attorney from the firm billed District 205 $52 to write Williams an email saying it had determined that Thomas was legally qualified to serve as superintendent.
Williams, meanwhile, is not eligible to be on the District 205 board, according to state law. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office filed a lawsuit in January to remove Williams from office because felons cannot serve as elected officials.
Williams, who owns Silk N Classy Barber College in Dolton, was convicted of felony forgery in Indiana in 1985.
He is next due in court Wednesday for a hearing in the lawsuit.
Robbins Schwartz has also billed District 205 for reviewing an “article on challenges to school board candidate based on felony conviction,” according to an invoice for $160 billed on Jan. 14.
Reached by phone, Williams declined to comment on the suspension of Thomas, saying it was a personnel matter and that he didn’t want to get sued for slander.
Robinson denied Lawrence’s accusations that there were trumped-up accusations against Thomas.
He said the “board made a decision, that’s what it was,” and referred all questions to Williams.