EDITORIAL: 7th District's Chris Welch is indicative of what's wrong in Illinois politics
Over the past year, the budget crisis in Illinois has worsened with the Land of Lincoln now entering its eighth month without a state budget and few, if any, signs that a deal is in the offing.
It’s unlikely that representatives in Springfield will start putting taxpayers first any time soon, as the denizens of the Illinois General Assembly have a long history of putting themselves, their family and their friends first — often at the expense of hardworking taxpayers.
Take, for example, Emanuel “Chris” Welch, the Democrat state representative from Illinois’ 7th District. Welch has a long history of hiring family, friends and even a convicted felon, frequently at taxpayer expense.
While Welch was president of the Proviso High School District 209 school board, he loaded the district’s payroll with as many as 19 “close friends and relatives.” Among them, a $56,000 janitorial job for his brother Billy Welch, and a $90,000 night foreman job for the best man at his wedding, Ron “R.C.” Anderson, according to a March 8, 2012 Chicago Sun-Times report.
Welch also had romantic relationships with two other employees of District 209, both of whom saw their employment terminated when the relationships ended. Nikita Johnson, Welch’s former fiancé, was removed as assistant superintendent of finance and operations in 2011 in what the Chicago Sun-Times described as a “controversial district-wide shake up.” Beyonca Johnson (no relations to Nikita) was an assistant to the superintendent. She was fired in 2008, shortly after she broke off her relationship with Welch.
Of the 19 friends and family hired at District 209, 13 were financial contributors to Welch’s political campaigns; and 10 had connections to controversial, long-serving Melrose Park Mayor Rob Serpico.
The Serpico connections don’t end there. After he was elected state representative in 2012, Welch quickly added a convicted felon to his district office staff. Guy “Ric” Cervone was a Melrose Park police commander until he pled guilty to federal charges that he helped the town’s ex-police chief run an illegal private security firm on public time and on the public’s dime. None of this clearly mattered much to Welch, who described Cervone as “a heck of a guy,” according to a Jan. 17, 2013 article in the Forest Park Review.
His office staff also included former Proviso 209 school board member Francine Harrell as a constituent services coordinator.
If Illinois is ever to emerge from the dire budget stalemate it is mired in, it’ll need public servants who are interested in setting the state on the right course and putting the taxpayers first. Not people like Welch, who appears only concerned with taking care of himself and his associates.