With the July 1 seating of Charles Flowers as the head of the suburban Cook County regional school superintendent’s office, the Proviso Township High School District declared Monday that Flowers must forfeit his seat on the Proviso school board.
The Proviso board declared a vacancy on the school board and will have 45 days to name a replacement. Though Flowers did not resign from the local body, district officials acted on the advice of their attorneys and cited the potential for conflict as the reason for ousting Flowers.
In statements delivered to the board during Monday night’s special meeting, attorney Mike Del Galdo explained that because the regional superintendent’s office has supervisory authority over the District 209 board, Flowers can not hold both offices.
Flowers did not attend Monday’s meeting, nor did he respond to requests for comment prior to the meeting.
In his absence the board voted 5-1 to declare the seat vacant. Board member Theresa Kelly cast the lone minority vote.
In November Flowers unseated the incumbent regional superintendent, who serves in an oversight capacity for school districts in suburban Cook County. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, Flowers is not statutorily obligated to resign from the local school board, however, holding both seats could present a conflict.
“It’s a compatibility issue,” a spokesperson for the state board said.
Prior to receiving the opinion of district counsel, board President Chris Welch said Flowers has an obligation to the taxpayers who elected him to the regional office. Welch, a practicing attorney with experience in school law, said he was not speaking as an attorney, but simply as a school board member.
“I think the right thing to do would be to step down and let the board appoint another district citizen to the board,” Welch said.
Just beneath the logistics of whether Flowers can legally hold both seats and the school board’s authority to unseat an elected official is the history of political infighting between Flowers and the board president. Since winning a seat on the board in 2005, Flowers has been an outspoken opponent of Welch’s, often voting against those initiatives favored by the president. Most recently, Flowers questioned why the board should hire an insurance broker and an outside maintenance firm after administrators and other board members either refused or were unable to present any argument for doing so. Ultimately, Flowers found himself again casting a minority vote on the contracts.
Kelly, who argued Monday for Flower’s right to remain on the District 209 board, has been a staunch political ally of Flowers, often joining him to cast a vote against the established majority led by Welch.
“I’m hoping that he’ll be able to stay,” Kelly said prior to Monday’s board meeting.
Flowers won the Cook County office in November with more than 61 percent of the vote over Republican incumbent Robert Ingraffia, unseating him by a count of 376,107 to 232,954.
For the next week, the superintendent’s office will accept applications from Proviso residents interested in filling the position. Should the board fail to appoint a new member within 45 days of declaring the seat vacant, Flowers, acting as the regional superintendent, would have 30 days to appoint someone.