Judge: Hold special election for vacant D.205 seat

2014-02-04T16:55:00Z 2014-02-04T21:41:09Z Judge: Hold special election for vacant D.205 seatGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 04, 2014 4:55 pm  • 

CHICAGO | A Cook County judge on Tuesday suggested a special election to fill a vacancy on the Thornton Township High School District 205 board only to have the idea rejected by all sides in the ongoing legal dispute.

Judge Moshe Jacobius made the suggestion during a hearing at his Daley Center courtroom. It is an alternative as the propriety of the South Cook Intermediate Service Center pick of a Harvey resident to fill the vacancy is challenged.

“Perhaps you could come up with an understanding about holding an election, a way in which people interested in the position could present their credentials,” Jacobius told the gathering of a half-dozen attorneys — each representing different factions in the fight over control of the School Board.

None of those attorneys liked the idea, with attorney George Jackson III, who represents three board members aligned with former D.205 board President Kenneth Williams, pointing out the Illinois School Code prohibits such elections to fill vacancies.

While Anthony Bass, an attorney for the three School Board members who opposed Williams, said it is important to fill the board vacancy immediately.

The current 3-3 split in the School Board meant it was unable last year to reach agreement on a new board member, which under state law then shifts the matter to the regional school superintendent.

Except that in Cook County, the regional superintendent position was abolished a few years ago. The service center, based in Chicago Heights, now handles the responsibilities of a regional superintendent for south suburban school districts. The service center wound up picking Ray C. Banks for the post because he was the highest vote-getter of all the losing candidates in the 2013 municipal elections.

But Jackson argued the service center had no authority to take on the issue, and argued the center made the pick at a meeting that was not open to the public, potentially putting it in violation of the Open Meetings Act.

Jackson said no one now has the authority to fill the vacancy, and the D.205 board seat will remain vacant until the next scheduled School Board election in April 2015.

Bass said that would only aggravate the current stalemate, where bills dating back to late summer have not been paid because board members are split on everything. Bills more than 90 days due will now cost District 205 a 1 percent financial penalty, and Bass said that number continues to grow.

Jacobius scheduled Feb. 28 as the next court date and extended a restraining order to prevent Banks from serving on the School Board when it meets again Feb. 12.

The vacancy occurred when a Cook County judge last year removed Williams because of his 29-year-old felony conviction in Indiana. Williams this week told The Times he is not technically a part of the legal effort to keep Banks off the School Board and is actually spending much of his time running a campaign for an Illinois House seat in the March 18 Democratic primary election.

But his case in the Illinois Appellate Court in Chicago is pending, and he said of the School Board vacancy, “I still consider that to be my seat.”

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