CHICAGO | A Cook County judge on Tuesday gave attorneys for Thornton Township High School District 205 board President Kenneth Williams two weeks to explain why he should remain in his elected post despite a 28-year-old felony conviction for forgery.
Associate Judge Rita M. Novak presided over a hearing in her courtroom at the Daley Center, where representatives of the Cook County state’s attorney’s office asked her to sign an order that would remove Williams from the school board immediately.
But Novak refused to do so on Tuesday. Instead, she told Williams’ attorney, Matthew Dodge, that he has 14 days to file a written response to the state’s attorney’s contention that a person with a felony conviction on their record cannot serve on a school board.
Novak said she would then “address this case as quickly as I can.” She told attorneys for Williams and the state’s attorney’s office that she needs to research the issue to determine if she has the legal authority to sign off on an order that removes someone from office.
Following the hearing, Dodge declined to comment and Williams was not available to comment. Previously, Williams has been critical of State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for bringing this case against him at a time when the public perception of violence in Chicago is poor.
Williams was elected to a four-year term in 2009. In 2011, he was chosen to be school board president.
In the municipal elections earlier this month, Williams won another four-year term on the board that would begin in May. His 7,708 votes were more than the tallies received by any of the other 10 candidates.
Assistant State’s Attorney Kent Ray on Tuesday asked Novak to issue an order preventing Williams from taking an oath of office until the legal issue is resolved. Novak refused, saying she thinks that would overstep the bounds of this case.
At stake is Williams’ record. In 1985, he was found guilty of forgery in Indiana and served just under two years in prison. Since then, he has not been arrested for any felony offense, and he has developed a barber shop and barber school in Dolton.
The state’s attorney’s office originally asked for a judge to remove Williams from the school board in December, but officials with the sheriff’s police were unable to serve him a summons to appear in court until mid-March.
Assistant State's Attorney Sisavanh Baker said Williams has ignored attempts since then to get him to acknowledge the court order.
“He is attempting to delay this unreasonably,” she said.