A group of township residents is debating whether to file a lawsuit to reclaim nearly $60,000 that should have gone toward public education. The money was spent by the District 209 Proviso high school board between June 2008 and December. What was it used for if not classroom instruction, you ask? It was used to pay lawyers hired by board President Chris Welch.
The case – and all its costs – are familiar to regular readers of the Review. Welch is accused of making defamatory remarks about a couple of lawyers he no longer gets along with. Those attorneys used to work for the school district and made a lot of money doing so. They also contributed a lot of cash to Welch’s political campaigns.
In the midst of their falling out, Welch posted a few comments about these men on a Web site. He made the comments anonymously. The site still operates today and has no affiliation with the school district or the school board. Neither are the schools a party to the lawsuit. Welch is the defendant.
The law firm that currently represents District 209 in most of its legal affairs has advised school board members that because Welch is an elected official he’s entitled to be reimbursed for his legal fees. Anything that Welch might say or do could be seen as an act carried out on behalf of the public, according to the lawyers. Even if he’s acting independently of any board decision. Even if he hides behind an anonymous Web site.
That these are the fools responsible for public education is an absolute travesty. The logic used to justify spending these funds is so flawed and so preposterous it’s difficult to comprehend that a majority of the school board would go along with it.
Should these justifiably outraged taxpayers decide to move forward, it’s not yet clear who might be sued. Regardless, it’s a safe bet that the school district will pay the bills. It also seems plausible that defending the board’s decision to pay Welch’s legal bills could end up costing more than what was paid to begin with. This may make it tougher to win public support for the cause.
There are a few other factors that should be considered, however. First, the case against Welch is still pending and the outcome may require that Welch write a big check to make up for his behavior. It’s not a leap to think that because taxpayers have been paying his attorneys it would also be taxpayers who underwrite that check. Second, filing a lawsuit would send a very clear message that someone is paying attention to these nitwits.
The public has been abused in so many ways by this school district. It is time to fight back. Ask the board to first reconsider its decision, giving members a chance to make the right decision. If the spending continues, take them to court.