The website for Thornton Township High School District 205 proclaims in bold letters: “Congratulations to our newest board member Mr. Kenneth Williams.”
There’s just one problem.
Williams, who was appointed to fill a school board vacancy on Nov. 12, previously served on the board — until a Cook County judge removed him from office last year because he is a convicted felon.
Now, two lawsuits, both filed Tuesday in Cook County,add the latest twist to Williams’ woes with District 205.
The lawsuits call for Williams’ ouster from office. Board members Edward Crayton and Bernadette Lawrence filed one suit. The other was filed by Dr. Vanessa Kinder, a Illinois State Board of Education official who oversees school districts in southern Cook County, among them District 205.
Both argue Williams, 51, of South Holland, can’t hold office due to the “infamous” nature of his crime — in this case, a 1985 forgery conviction in Indiana.
A quirk in Illinois law allows convicted felons to run for county and statewide office, but bars them from serving in municipal offices, like on a school board.
Both lawsuits also argue that Williams’ appointment is not valid because the board did not have a “quorum” when a vote was taken. In order to have a quorum, a majority of members mustbe present. Only three members were present during the vote, among them Williams’ wife, Toni, who also serves on the board, the suits allege.
Messages left for Williams at phone numbers listed forhim, as well as at his business —the Silk N Classy Barber College —were not returned. A spokesman for District 205 could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Williams was president of the board before his October 2013 ouster. Judge Rita Novak ruled his prior felony conviction disqualified him from serving under the state’s school and election codes.
At the time, several board members supported the effort to oust Williams. In January 2013, they sent a letter to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. The letter said Williams and two other board members — including his wife Toni — were trying to control the district’s finances and “to employ family and friends.”
The lawsuit filed Tuesday by board members Crayton and Lawrence alleges that Williams was appointed by his allies to “establish and preserve a controlling voting block.”
Williams was appointed by his wife Toni, along with board members Darren Robinson and Judith Gibbs during a series of “special” meetings, the suit alleges.
At one early-morning meeting on Oct. 21, the three interviewed potential candidates to replace former board memberLauren Green, who resigned on Oct. 15, the suit states. Williams was among those interviewed.
Then,at the Nov. 12 meeting, the three voted to approve Williams’ appointment.
In their suit, Crayton and Lawrence argue that both special meetings were purposely scheduled at times when thosetwo members would not be able to attend.