Last week, the Lyons Township Trustees of Schools, better known as the Township Treasurer’s Office (TTO), hired Kenneth T. Getty Jr. as its new treasurer replacing Susan Birkenmaier who is retiring. 

Getty Jr., 37, is the brother of Lyons Village President and Lyons Township Supervisor Christopher Getty and the son of former Lyons Village President Ken Getty Sr., who was convicted of scheming to rig bids in 1998 during his time in office.

Getty Jr. has worked at the Lyons Township Treasurer’s Office for the past four years, starting out as a part-time special projects hourly employee, then becoming a financial analyst. For the last years, he’s been the office’s director of finance and operations.

Getty Jr. has an MBA from the University of South Florida and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northern Illinois University. He earned his chief school business officer’s endorsement after starting to work for the Lyons Township TTO.

The TTO manages funds and handles check writing and payroll for school districts located in Lyons Township and is governed by a three-person elected board, which unanimously voted to hire Getty.

“He has grown since he has started working within the treasurer’s office and has improved internal and financial controls,” said trustee board president Mike Thiessen in a press release. “Our board has total confidence he will succeed as the next treasurer.”

Another member of the board is Theron Tobolski, the brother of Cook County Commissioner and McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski, who is a political ally of Christopher Getty. The political committees of both Tobolski and Getty donate to one another frequently, and Thiessen also has donated money frequently to Tobolski’s committee in the past.

Birkenmaier, who has worked part-time as the treasurer for the last two years was hired in 2013. Her predecessor, Robert Healy, resigned after being charged with stealing more than $100,000 in school funds. In 2015, Healy pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Birkenmaier said she is retiring to have a greater focus on family, friends, and fun. 

She said that she thinks Getty Jr. will do a fine job as treasurer. 

“I think he’ll be an outstanding treasurer,” Birkenmaier said. “He has worked hard to secure all of his credentials, and my experience working with him has been absolutely positive. He throws himself into the work and he makes sure that everything is done right. There’s accountability and transparency and he will be an outstanding treasurer.”

Getty Jr. brushed off suggestions that he was chosen for the job because of his political connections.

“I come in every day and work very hard and very diligently,” Getty said. “I refuse to be distracted by those comments and I continue to work hard. 

“I know people will always say negative comments to try to rile me, but I’m very proud of the work I do and proud of the work we do at this office.”

Birkenmaier said that Getty was chosen from a field of five finalists. In all 19 people applied for job and eight were qualified. State law requires that a school treasurer be either a certified public accountant or have an endorsement as the chief school business officer. The treasurer must also live in the township in which he is the school treasurer for.

Getty received a two-year contract, which is mandated by state law, Birkenmaier said. His annual salary will be $140,000. Getty officially becomes township schools treasurer on July 1.

Law will allow LTHS to break with township school treasurer

Lyons Township High School will eventually get its long-awaited wish to withdraw from the Lyons Township Treasurer’s Office. But before that can happen, a multimillion dollar lawsuit that the treasurer’s office, officially known as the Township Trustees of School, has filed against LTHS must be resolved.

Last month, on the last day of the legislative session, both houses of the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill, without a single dissenting vote, that will allow LTHS District 204 to withdraw from the treasurer’s office once the claims from the lawsuit are resolved. 

Under the bill, LTHS could withdraw from the school treasurer’s office no earlier than July 1, 2019 and appoint its own treasurer.

District 204 Superintendent Tim Kilrea expressed appreciation to the House and Senate sponsors of the bill, State Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and State Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), and all the legislators who helped get the bill passed.

“They saw that it made sense and we’re very appreciative,” Kilrea said. “We think it’s good for our taxpayers, it’s good for our school district.”

The bill is awaiting the signature of Gov. Bruce Rauner, to become law, but that is expected to be a formality.

LTHS has long wanted out from the treasurer’s office, saying it doesn’t use, need or want any of the services that the office provides. The lawsuit, filed in 2013, claims that for more than a decade LTHS didn’t pay its annual assessment to the treasurer’s office and seeks to recover $4.7 million that it says LTHS owes the office. 

The lawsuit has been slowly winding its way through Cook County Chancery Court. 

Township School Treasurer Susan Birkenmaier, says LTHS has turned down attempts to settle the case.

“LT has not given us any indication that they want to talk,” Birkenmaier said. “That’s why we’re proceeding legally. They have been made offers that they’ve just kind of rebuffed and said, ‘You know, come back when you have a more serious offer.’ They don’t want to pay the bill.”

LTHS officials are confident they are in the right and claim that they had an agreement to opt out of the services provided by the school treasurer’s office.

The school treasurer’s office, commonly known as a TTO, is peculiar to Cook County, is mandated by state law and dates to 1819. TTOs manage and invest funds for school districts in its township. A few TTOs have been abolished by state law or referendum.

— Bob Skolnik