All but one of the plaintiffs who initiated a civil complaint alleging that public money was being spent improperly to cover legal fees incurred by a Proviso Township High School District 209 board member have withdrawn from the case.
The matter is still pending before the court, and according to Patrick Deady, an attorney for the plaintiff, the argument remains strong.
“These are really representatives of the taxpayers in Proviso Township,” Deady said of the plaintiffs.
In March, Arbdella Patterson, Carlos Anderson, Kevin McDermott and Donald Williams filed the complaint against the district. They are asking a Cook County Circuit Court judge to reverse the flow of cash being paid by the district to attorneys hired by board President Chris Welch. According to their complaint, Welch’s attorneys were defending him against an allegation of defamation that was unrelated to his role as a school board member, therefore barring Welch from using taxpayer money to mount his defense.
A temporary injunction has been granted, cutting off the flow of district funds at $51,566. A ruling on the case is still pending, and both sides continue to collect depositions.
Since the complaint was filed, McDermott has won a seat on the school board. He withdrew because he could not be both a plaintiff and a defendant.
In October, the court granted a motion filed by Patterson and Anderson to have their names pulled from the case. That request made no mention of the reasons for doing so, however, Patterson said in a telephone interview that an unexpected death in the family is drawing her attention elsewhere.
Anderson could not be reached for comment and Patterson said she was unaware of Anderson’s request. Both Patterson and Anderson ran unsuccessfully for seats on the school board in the April 2009 election.
School board members, and all public officials, are protected by an indemnification statute in Illinois for actions taken in their official capacity. The school district, through its attorneys, has argued that Welch is entitled to reimbursement for his legal fees because he is being sued for statements he made as a board member.
The defamation case against Welch was filed in 2007 by Burt Odelson and Mark Sterk, two attorneys who previously provided legal services to the school district. Odelson and Sterk were fired by the school board and, shortly thereafter, Welch began publishing comments online about the attorneys. Odelson and Sterk are alleging that several of those comments are defamatory.
The Web site used by Welch to publish those remarks is an anonymous blog and is not affiliated with the school district. Neither the district nor any other school board member is a defendant in the case.
In court records filed in September, attorneys for the school district argued, in part, that because Patterson and Anderson also ran for seats on the school board, their claim against the district is invalidated because the suit is an attempt to gain publicity in time for the election.
Williams, the sole remaining plaintiff, is a former mayor of Maywood and the father of Karen Yarbrough, the Democratic state representative for the 7th District.