CHICAGO | Kenneth Williams may have twice been chosen by the voters of Thornton Township High School District 205 to serve on the School Board, but a Cook County judge said Wednesday he can’t keep the post.
Judge Rita M. Novak issued a 16-page legal brief that said Williams is ineligible to retain his School Board seat to which he was elected in 2009 and re-elected in this year’s elections.
Novak sided with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, which says his conviction on May 22, 1985, in Indiana for “aiding, inducing or causing” a forgery qualifies as an “infamous crime,” which makes him ineligible to hold a school board post.
In 2011, Williams was chosen by the School Board to be its president, and he currently has the support of three of the six board members, which includes his wife, Toni Williams, who was elected to her School Board post in 2011.
But the state’s attorney’s office filed a lawsuit at the beginning of this year seeking to have Williams forcibly removed after he ignored a request last year by the office to voluntarily resign from the School Board.
Although Novak’s ruling calls for Williams to immediately be removed, District 205 spokesman Glenn Harston said Williams plans to appeal, and intends to remain in control of the School Board until the matter works its way through the appellate court.
Williams has never denied his criminal conviction for which he was sentenced to a five-year prison term and actually served 22 months. His attorneys argued that his right to hold elective office was restored once he fulfilled his sentence.
Novak wrote, “At their core, the provisions of the School Code and the Election Code at issue establish an intent by the General Assembly to prevent persons convicted of infamous crimes from holding certain offices, namely offices of honor, trust or profit, unless the individual has been pardoned or restored to such rights.”
Williams has not been charged with any offenses since his 28-year-old conviction, and has gone on to create the Dolton-based Silk ‘n’ Classy barber college. But Novak wrote those facts are irrelevant.
“Contrary to Mr. Williams’ argument, apart from the expiration of the term of office, the statute contains no limit on the timing of the conviction,” Novak wrote, while also rejecting the argument Williams made that only people convicted of sex offenses were ineligible to serve on school boards.
Williams, in a prepared statement, said he believes State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez prosecuted him because of racial concerns. Her office in recent months has pursued cases against several Harvey-area municipal officials all of whom were African-American.
Alvarez has denied that charge, and Novak in her brief said she did not think the charge was relevant. Although Williams said, in his statement, “The voters of the district specified in no uncertain terms they wanted me on the board, but questionably state’s attorney Alvarez blatantly ignored the Constitution and the voters of District 205.”