‘Tis the season of giving, and the Proviso District 209 school board had been aiming to give longtime Board President Chris Welch an early present – at the expense of taxpayers.
The school board had approved the use of public money to pay over $40,000 that Welch still owes his personal attorneys, and to fund a roughly $400,000 settlement Welch’s lawyers crafted to bail him out of the defamation of character suit he’s been battling for four years.
It was an outrageous decision considering that the school board has never been a party in any way to this suit. No, this has long been a grudge match between the powerful egos of Welch and two other attorneys Ð Mark Sterk and Burt Odelson Ð who sued him for character defamation.
Fortunately, the state-appointed financial oversight panel which ultimately runs the finances of this debacle of a school district properly acted as the Grinch that stole Welch’s district-funded Christmas. Its members put the brakes on the board’s slaphappy spending, and rejected the payouts.
Remember, the school district has never been sued in this matter. Only Chris Welch has been sued. And now Chris Welch will have to pay.
This will, we hope, put a damper on his holiday plans, as Welch now has to come up with the 40 grand to pay his lawyers. And he will either have to accept a $400,000-plus settlement, already negotiated by his attorneys, or take the risk of having this matter go to trial.
Back in 2007, Welch was sued by Sterk and Odelson for character defamation after Welch made reckless allegations against the pair on a blog he wrote. An attorney himself, Welch should have known better than to defame the notably litigious Sterk and Odelson.
Welch, though, has a difficult time holding his arrogance and ego in check.
Welch should have thought about the consequences before he started calling people crooks while blogging. And the consequence is being held financially accountable for shooting his mouth off.
The D209 board, which is largely comprised of inept Welch loyalists, needs to stop handing Welch get-out-of-jail-free cards. Because of its past decisions, Proviso taxpayers have already funded over $50,000 of Welch’s personal legal bills. This is inexcusable. We are only grateful that the state oversight board has the authority to provide a check to this miserable board.
Now we have the spectacle of Welch running hard for a new political plum, a seat in the state legislature. Remember, we talked about his ego. Here is a man who has dominated the Proviso High School district over a decade in which it has failed by every measure. And now he wants to add a seat in Springfield!
Voters, come the February primary, have a fresh chance to tell Chris Welch that his overreaching has hit a wall.
In the meantime, the state oversight board has given taxpayers across Proviso a reprieve from the nonsense and giveaways that pass for governance in this sorry district.