The top vote-getter in the April 4 Berwyn Township trustee race won’t take the seat, she announced May 15, because she’s already on the school board and fears a legal challenge.
The Township board chose a new trustee May 25 in a closed-session meeting. Joseph Johnston was selected as trustee by a vote of 3-1.
Elizabeth O. Jimenez, who serves on the South Berwyn School District 100 School Board, was elected as a township trustee with 3,900 votes, or 15.6 percent of the vote. Jimenez said she didn’t realize there was a possibility that holding both offices she could be challenged legally.
“Over the last couple of weeks I have been receiving anonymous information letting me know that certain individual(s) were thinking of filing in court papers that once I took the oath for Township meant that I was automatically given up my seat as school board member in School District 100,” Jimenez posted on her Facebook page. Jimenez said she did not want to risk losing her place on the D100 school board.
“The education of our children to the best of our abilities should be our highest priority. It is mine,” she wrote.
Under the doctrine of “incompatibility of office,” the Illinois Attorney General has listed township trustee, along with city alderman, park district board member and other board positions as offices that may conflict with serving as a school board member, according to the Illinois Association of School Boards. A June 2014 report by the Committee of the Illinois Council of School Attorneys, answers some questions about incompatibility.
“Incompatibility of offices exists where there is a conflict in the duties of the offices, so that the performance of the duties of the one interferes with the performance of the other,” the report said.
Berwyn Township Supervisor Elizabeth Pechous said she found herself in a similar situation in 2009. After being elected to both school board and township supervisor, Pechous stepped down from the school board, she said.
Pechous had served for around 15 years on the school board, on-and-off while being employed by the Township.
“Someone told me there might be a conflict and I quietly stepped down from the school board,” Pechous said.
Jimenez said she consulted two attorneys who were unclear about whether she could survive a challenge.
“It would have to be decided by a judge and likely would take a long time and cost a lot of money,” she said.
Jimenez ran for school board in 2015 and was the second highest vote-getter. However, as a newbie candidate, her petitions were challenged. Paperwork filed in the challenge led back to the address of the school district’s law firm, Del Galdo Law Group. In 2015, Del Galdo paid $1,032 for printing under a company called MBN Holding, LLC for D100 candidates Jennifer Mitchell, Mark Titzer and Lisa Clemente. Del Galdo also serves as legal counsel for the City of Berwyn and the Township.
Jimenez said she did not know who was sending her the anonymous messages that she might be challenged in court.
“It is what it is. I can’t risk losing my seat on the school board,” she said.
— Possible conflict keeps Berwyn township trustee-elect off board —