Conflict forces Glen Ellyn Dist. 41 board member to resign

The Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 school board will appoint a new member by late February to fill the seat left vacant by Willie DiFabio, who resigned unexpectedly Monday with less than four months left in his appointed term.

DiFabio also will withdraw from one of the most hotly contested school board races in DuPage County because of conflict-of-interest concerns raised by his work as a substitute teacher in the district - a job he's held since 2009.

DiFabio was the lone incumbent in a contest with nine other candidates running for four available 4-year seats in the April 4 election.

The board unanimously named DiFabio to a one-year appointment in June from a field of 19 applicants. At the time, DiFabio said he didn't have "any desire" to seek a full 4-year term.

Board President Erica Nelson announced his resignation in a prepared statement Monday night.

"As part of the interview process for appointment to the board, Mr. DiFabio included in his statement that he had been substitute teaching in the district," Nelson said. "Neither the board nor Mr. DiFabio was aware of any legal or practical limitations on such dual service."

Nelson said DiFabio can serve as a board member and work as a substitute teacher, but cannot be paid more than $2,000 for his teaching. The concerns came up because DiFabio crossed that threshold - receiving about $3,200 so far this school year for his substitute teaching.

DiFabio pledges to return about $1,200 to the district, or what he made in excess of the amount allowed by Illinois School Code, Nelson said.

Superintendent Paul Gordon said the concerns were raised "internally" over the holidays about whether DiFabio's substitute teaching affected his candidacy for the board. Gordon and Nelson declined to say who brought the issue to the district's attention.

The district consulted its attorney, who advised that, under board policy and state law, DiFabio cannot now substitute teach and also be a board member, Nelson said Monday. The policy says no board member "shall have a beneficial interest directly or indirectly in any contract, work, or business of the district unless permitted by The School Code and the Corrupt Practices Act."

Rather than stay in the race, DiFabio wants to continue substitute teaching. He has until Jan. 26 to formally drop out. He did not return a message for comment Tuesday.

Before his appointment, DiFabio served on the board from 1997 until 2005.

The district will release by Friday the application that hopefuls must fill out to succeed DiFabio.

Board members have until Feb. 20, or 45 days from DiFabio's resignation, to name his successor. If members fail to meet that deadline, the decision would fall to the regional superintendent of schools.

Applicants must complete the forms by noon Jan. 23. Nelson said the board plans to hold a closed-door meeting later that day to discuss the applications and decide whether to formally interview candidates.

The appointment would last until new board members take their seats at a reorganization meeting May 6.

Three board members whose terms expire this spring - Drew Ellis, Joe Bochenski and Patrick Escalante - are not seeking re-election.

The other nine candidates who have filed to run are Jeff Cooper, Erin Dieter, Marty Glover Boyd, Linda D'Ambrosio, Bruce Currie, Jason Loebach, Al D'Ambrosio, Robert Bruno and Janet Wagner.

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