There will be a contested race, technically, after all in the race for a position on the board of the Lyons Township School Treasurer’s Office, commonly known as the TTO.
After Brian Anderson dropped out of the race two weeks ago, it looked as if McCook resident Shakana Kirksey-Miller had an unobstructed path to victory.
But when LaGrange resident James Boo found out that Anderson had withdrawn from the race, he decided to mount a write-in campaign for a six-year term on the three-person TTO Board of Trustees.
“I was going to support Brian Anderson,” Boo told the Landmark last week.
Boo filed his write-in candidacy with the Cook County Clerk on Feb. 2, making him an official candidate. Any write-in votes for him in the April 6 election will be counted.
Boo is an unabashed critic of the TTO, which handles investments and accounting functions for all the school districts in Lyons Township. He thinks the office, which only exists in Cook County, should be abolished.
“A vote for me is basically a chance for the people to say that the TTO should go away,” Boo said. “I support the abolishment of the TTO.”
It takes action by the Illinois General Assembly to abolish a TTO, but Boo said he wants to make a point. He said he will campaign by seeking endorsements from local school boards.
Boo has worked with the LaGrange Area League of Women Voters, which supports the elimination of the TTO, to educate voters about the agency. He was part of a group who interviewed local school superintendents to learn about the TTO and how it functions.
Critics of TTOs say the office is a patronage haven that is outdated and unnecessary. Critics say that local school districts can invest their reserves on their own and can handle their own accounting and payroll functions.
Supporters of the TTO says the office pools school districts’ money and get a higher return on investment than the districts could get on their own. Supporters also say the TTO can save money by efficiently handling school districts’ financial and accounting functions.
The TTO is in the midst of a trial regarding a multimillion lawsuit it filed against Lyons Township High School, claiming the high school did not pay all of its required fees or more than a decade, beginning in the early 2000s.
The trial began in November and is continuing in fits and starts on Zoom. A verdict is expected before the April 6 election.
Boo, 60, is a chemical engineer who describes himself as a taxpayer advocate. He has twice run unsuccessfully for a spot on the park board in LaGrange.
“I would describe myself as fiscal conservative who believes in spending taxpayer money the same way I would spend my own money,” Boo said.
Boo said he has been attending TTO board meetings since 2013, shortly after former Treasurer Robert Healy was charged embezzling approximately $1.5 million from the TTO in 2013.
In 2015, Healy pleaded guilty to theft and was sentenced to nine years in prison. Healy is now out of prison and he recently testified in the TTO-LTHS trial.
“[TTO board President] Michael Thiessen told me that I was the first citizen that didn’t want something or didn’t have any business with the board to ever appear at a meeting,” Boo said.
Boo said that he knows he faces an uphill battle as a write-in candidate, but said he believes he has a chance to win if voters learn about the TTO.