SOUTH HOLLAND | A Cook County judge will hear arguments Tuesday whether a new member of the Thornton Township High School District 205 School Board should be allowed to take office.
The South Cook Intermediate Service Center, based in Chicago Heights, is the regional superintendent for south suburban school districts. That entity named Ray C. Banks, of Harvey, on Jan. 4 to serve on the School Board. Banks filled a vacancy created in October when Judge Rita M. Novak ordered School Board President Kenneth Williams removed because of a 29-year-old felony conviction on his record.
Banks was sworn in to office on Jan. 13 by Cook County Judge Carl Boyd at the Markham courthouse to make it official. But the three School Board members who were aligned with Williams obtained a restraining order on Jan. 22 that prevents Banks from “serving in any capacity” on the School Board.
The order says Judge Moshe Jacobius will address the issue again during a hearing in his courtroom at the Daley Center in Chicago.
Vanessa Kinder, executive director of the South Cook Intermediate Service Center, declined to comment on the matter because of a pending lawsuit the three board members filed against Kinder, the Service Center and District 205.
Glenn Harston, a spokesman for Thornton District 205, said the order prevented the School Board from conducting a special meeting on Jan. 22 at Thornton High School in Harvey.
Officials wanted to address unpaid bills and other business that was not conducted on Jan. 8 due to the lack of a quorum. The fate of the next scheduled board meeting on Feb. 12 will depend on how Jacobius rules.
The School Board chosen in the 2013 municipal elections was one led by Williams, who had three other School Board members — his wife, Toni; Vice President Darren Robinson and Judith Gibbs — aligned with him. The other three board members — Edward Crayton, Bernadette Lawrence and Lauren Green — were a vocal minority.
But if Banks, the executive director of Restoration Ministries in Harvey, aligns himself with Crayton, Lawrence and Green, that would create a new majority in control of the School Board. Banks said Thursday he was not surprised that his spot on the school board wound up being subject to a court case, although he would not speculate how the judge would rule. “I don't know what will happen next week,” he said. “I’ll wait and see.”
When Kenneth Williams was removed from the School Board due to his criminal record, the board was unable to meet a state deadline to fill the vacancy themselves. That shifted the responsibility to the South Cook Intermediate Service Center, which chose Banks because he was the highest vote-getter among the seven unsuccessful candidates in April.
Kinder previously said state law does not specify a procedure for filling school board vacancies. But Harston said Robinson, Toni Williams and Gibb believe the service center overstepped its authority in picking a replacement.
The restraining order filed by the three School Board members reads, “The operation of the Board with an unlawfully appointed member would cause irreparable harm in that it would alienate and eviscerate the effectiveness of the collective and individual votes of the plaintiffs.”
Harston also said the three believe it is wrong to replace Kenneth Williams because he still has a legal challenge to his removal pending in the Illinois Appellate Court in Chicago. Kenneth Williams also seeks the Illinois House seat held by state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City.
“It is in the appeal process, and this could turn out to be a case of replacing (Williams) for a short time before he returns,” Harston said.