Not so fast. That’s what Proviso District 209’s financial-oversight panel essentially told D209’s board, last week, when it tabled over $60,000 in payments to satisfy legal fees.
Earlier this month, the D209 school board OK’d payments to three law firms, two of which billed the district a total of $38,642 for personal legal service that was provided to Chris Welch, the long time school board president.
That’s for legal bills Welch racked up this year defending himself against Chicago lawyers Burt Odelson and Mark Sterk, who sued him back in 2007 for defamation of character.
The fact that public money has already been used ($51,566, thus far) and more could be spent to fund Welch’s personal legal battle is nothing short of preposterous. Welch got himself into this mess, and it should be his financial responsibility to get himself out of it – not Proviso Township taxpayers.
There’s a bit of irony here, too.
D209’s board approved the payment of Welch’s most recent round of legal bills at its October meeting, based on the parameters of the “Don Williams Settlement.”
Remember that one? That stemmed from a class-action lawsuit filed in 2009 by several Proviso residents who demanded that the district stop paying Welch’s way, and that Welch reimburse what he had already been paid.
When the settlement was finally reached, two of the items that were agreed on stated that the district could, essentially, pay for Welch’s legal fees. Funny, wasn’t the lawsuit filed to prevent things like this from happening? Well, like any compromise, apparently there was give and take.
Also interesting are the political connections in all of this.
Just about every plaintiff dropped out of the case – that is, except for Don Williams, the father of powerful 7th District state Rep. Karen Yarbrough.
Yarbrough and Welch were political adversaries at one point, but have since made up, and Welch is now running for the 7th District seat that Yarbrough plans to vacate to seek the office of Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
Interesting how the terms of the settlement addressed the needs of both Williams and Welch.
Several of the folks who sued the district over the matter were just Proviso residents, but, at the time, one was a self-dubbed reformer named Kevin McDermott, who was soon thereafter elected to the school board.
McDermott’s since dropped out of the case and donated to Welch’s campaign (possibly because he has his own political aspirations, we’re told).
The gist of all this is: it’s business, as usual – Proviso style. All of this exemplifies the ineptitude, self-preservation, cronyism and utter disregard for Proviso taxpayers that has permeated this board for too long.
This needs to stop and Welch needs to realize that the free ride’s over.