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D210 Board Member Defends High-profile DUI Case: Does it Compromise the School District?

Should the responsibilities of a school board member be a consideration when it comes to the professional workplace?

Stephen White, a member of the Lincoln-Way High School District 210 Board of Education, made headlines with his defense of Carlton Fisk, the 64-year old retired White Sox player on a DUI charge in New Lenox. While Fisk's case came to a close Dec. 27—with one-year supervision—some readers debated White's position on the board.

Fisk, who paid $1,250 in court costs, was also ordered to complete an alcohol abuse program. Part of that program demands that he meet with select families that had lost loved ones due to drunken drivers. 

"I know he is a former judge but really I don't know if it is a good idea to have someone who is involved in education of our children represent a DUI case," one commentor said. "Our schools have a program that tries to keep our children from drinking and here we have a board of education member in the news showing how he is working to get people off."

White didn't return calls seeking comment on some readers' concerns, but D210 Board President Arvid Johnson offered a measured response to comments that questioned whether or not it is appropriate for a popular defense attorney to sit on the board.

"He was elected by the citizens two years ago and has served as a board member since then," Johnson said. "Having his legal perspectives on the board is very helpful to us." 

LWHS D210 Supt. Lawrence Wyllie said, "Steve White is as good a board member as we've ever had. Everyone on the board has a job."

Read more: Retired White Sox Catcher Carlton Fisk Pleaded Guilty to DUI

Other people in the comments defended the ability to keep a job and board responsibilities separate:

  • "School board members do not get paid so they need to keep their "day jobs". If his day job is representing defendants as an attorney, this is what he has to do. Besides, a DUI defendant has the right to an attorney."
  • "Former Chief Judge Steve White is an outstanding lawyer. No wonder he attracts star clients. Remember, every person, guilty or innocent is entitled to his 6th Amendment Constitutionally protected right to assistance of counsel."

While some people agreed with those points, they said White could have opted to not take the case:

  • "Steve White should have shown better judgment and declined to represent him on these types of charges. Somebody else would have done it."
  • "As a member of the Lincoln-Way School Board, Judge White would have no problem seeing a student expelled if a dog sniffed out pot in a student's car after the student allowed one of his buddy's to use the car and the buddy dropped some pot in it. Why the double standard?"

Board members' occupations are taken into account when judging their qualifications, and a diverse set of backgrounds can help a board. But should there be any restrictions for board members? Tell us in the comments.

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James Madison January 09, 2013 at 02:13 AM
Walker: a lawyer in Will County is hard pressed for clients if he can't work DUIs. Not too much highbrow legal work in these parts. Your policy of no DUI clients would pretty much exclude ALL local lawyers.
Walker Percy January 09, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Mr. Madison, sir, I see your point, but that's still where I would draw the line. Plus, though I don't work in the legal field, if someone is a "superstar lawyer," as Steve claims (even though I believe he got his law degree from Lewis University, which doesn't even have a law school anymore because it was literally the bottom of the barrel) he should be able to make a buck without taking DUIs. And I repeat that Steve is one of the worst board members on D210.
Chauncy January 09, 2013 at 03:48 PM
I think part of the reason the judge is not called on this is because of the general acceptance of drunk driving in our society. I have had several neighbors announce that they drive drunk on a regular basis. If a neighbor said 'I shop lift all the time', we would think of them completely differently - they would be chastised and ostracized. Drive drunk and you're part of the gang. Everyone does it. This is sad, because driving drunk obviously kills innocent people every day, and it's completely avoidable. Bottom-line is if his hypocritical behavior bothers you, don't vote for him again.
Pat January 09, 2013 at 04:06 PM
It always fascinates me when people are surprised and outraged when a school board member backs a superintendent. It is the school board that hires the superintendent and arguably agree with his/her descisions in running the district. Would you, Mr. Percy, hire a CEO for your organization who did not agree with your business directives?
Walker Percy January 09, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Pat: Let me be clear: The problem with board members like Steve White is not that they back the superintendent--the board and the superintendent should be on the same page most of the time. It's the complete lack of oversight or critical analysis by Steve White that gets me. He never participates in the meetings. I never hear him say, "I really like this and want more of it," or "I don't like this and I want less of it." He just reads off the sheet and votes yes time and time again. In the business world, a CEO and a board disagree from time to time on some things. That's healthy. Board members like Steve White are just potted plants who add nothing to the mix. Steve White was handpicked by the board to replace Ron Kokal when Ron died. Why did the board handpick him? Because Wyllie wanted him on there. In the business world, as you recognize, the board hires the CEO. In D210, the superintendent dominates the board, picks the board members, and they just fall in line out of obedience. It looks nice to have "school board member" on their resume. So they don't rock the boat. The checks and balances in the business world don't exist.

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