Many were critical of Illinois House Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch even before the former Proviso Township High School District board president took office in 2013 to represent the 7th District.
One of those boldly voicing concern was Dan Haley, editor and publisher of the Wednesday Journal, who expressed his disapproval and dislike for the Democratic politician soon after he was sworn in.
“I don't like Chris Welch, the newly sworn-in state rep from the 7th District,” Haley wrote in an article on oakpark.com. “Not a lot of people I don't like, but Chris Welch makes that list. Now he represents River Forest, Forest Park and other Proviso Township towns in Springfield. Given politics in Illinois, he is likely to be there a long time.”
Haley went on to condemn Welch for hiring Guy "Ric" Cervone, a former Melrose Park police commander who pled guilty to federal charges of obstruction of justice for helping Melrose Park's former police chief, Vito Scavo, run a private security company on public time and with public funds. Cervone is also a former member of the District 89 school board in Melrose Park.
“And right out of the gate, Welch makes the kind of arrogant, right-in-plain-sight move that I'd expect from him,” Haley wrote. “He appointed a convicted felon — a corrupt cop — to run his district office in Westchester.”
In 2010, Cervone was sentenced to a few months in jail and paid a fine after pleading guilty the day before his trial was scheduled to start.
Welch acknowledged that Cervone had a controversial past, but defended his decision to hire the former police commander, arguing that Cervone had a strong work ethic.
Welch also has come under fire for reportedly hiring a slew of close friends and relatives while he was president of the Proviso Township High School District 209 school board, then leaving the district in a financial mess.
“Hiring friends and family is standard operating procedure for Welch," Haley said in the article. "That is one of the hallmarks of his tenure running the Proviso schools as a fiefdom. Then there are the distinctions of a school system with about the worst test scores in the state, where the finances are so out of control that the state government stepped in several years ago to take over. So which is more ironic? That Illinois, perhaps the greatest fiscal basket case among all 50 states, steps in to run Welch's school district's finances? Or that Welch now draws a paycheck from the state?”
Last October, Welch was inducted into the John Marshall Law School Hall of Distinction and has been recognized for his work in the community, receiving the Operation Uplift Hometown Dreamweaver Award, the prestigious PLCCA Image Award, the Village of Hillside Chairman’s Award for his contributions to Human Rights issues, and the Man of the Year Award from the Proviso Township Dream Team.
In addition, Welch was named one of the top 40 Game Changers under 40 by Black Enterprise Magazine and WVON AM-1690 in 2010. In 2011, he was named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers magazine and Chicago magazine.
"I am here to serve working families across Illinois and the 7th District each and every day," Welch said on his website. "To do that, I will be accessible and here to listen to your concerns."
Welch faces a challenge in this election cycle by Chris Harris of Forest Park.