CHICAGO | Cook County Judge Moshe Jacobius has said for months he thinks the students of Thornton Township High School District 205 suffer because the School Board has a vacancy, leaving the board in a partisan split that keeps school business from being accomplished.
Yet Jacobius on Tuesday ruled against the Chicago Heights-based entity that filled the vacancy, saying the seven-member School Board would remain one member short through the April 2015 municipal elections.
Jacobius said he believes the South Cook Intermediate Service Center failed to make its appointment of Ray C. Banks, of Harvey, within the time limit required by state law, and also may have violated the Open Meetings Act when it acted in January.
William Gleason, an attorney for Service Center Executive Director Vanessa Kinder, insisted there was no Open Meetings Act violation, and said he is prepared to fight any claim there was because it would result in financial penalties for the center.
The legal issue over the D.205 School Board began in October when a different Cook County judge ordered board President Kenneth Williams removed because of a 29-year-old felony conviction for aiding in a forgery. That record was expunged from Williams' record earlier this year in Allen County, Ind.
Williams' removal left the board in a 3-3 partisan split between Williams' supporters and his critics. The board was unable to comply with a 45-day time limit to pick a replacement, thereby delegating the issue to the Service Center.
The Service Center had until Jan. 6 to make a replacement, and Kinder told The Times she picked Banks on Jan. 4, with the full board supporting her choice on Jan. 29. Because Kinder made the decision without an announcement, Williams' supporters are alleging it was an Open Meetings Act violation.
Banks has said he would have aligned with Williams' critics, shifting control of the board. Williams' allies on the School Board filed a lawsuit challenging the appointment.
Gleason said Kinder was delegated the authority to fill School Board vacancies by the Service Center's board, and has done so on three occasions since 2011. Jacobius said there is no specific order by the board to delegate such authority.
He also said he thinks it is suspicious the Service Center board felt the need to take a vote to reaffirm Kinder's actions.
"It tells me they knew they were on thin ice," he said.
Jacobius on Tuesday reiterated his belief that, "the children in that district suffer when the School Board can't get anything done."
He said he does not see anything that can be done to pick a seventh School Board member since the school code specifically prevents special elections for such vacancies.
"The judge is merely following the law," said school district attorney Andrew Finko.
Attorneys for Williams' critics would not say Tuesday whether they will appeal the case, although Jacobius said he fully expects the case to move up the legal ladder to the Illinois Appellate Court in Chicago.
"If I'm wrong, the appellate court will tell me very quickly," he said.