House may soon consider bill to change state law to allow convicted felon to serve as Markham mayor
A bill that would allow convicted felons hold elected municipal office worked its way through the Illinois Senate last fall and could be considered in the House in the spring session.
The measure, Senate Bill 225, would pave the way for some people convicted of felonies more than 15 years in the past to serve as mayors, on city councils and village boards, and as trustees of school districts and other local taxing bodies.
State law currently prohibits convicted felons from holding elected municipal office.
The Chicago Tribune has reported the movement to alter state law seems at least partly sparked by the plight of Roger Agpawa, who was elected mayor of Markham last year. But since then, Agpawa has languished in no man’s land, unable to assume office because of a guilty plea on mail fraud charges dating back to 1999.
Agpawa, serving as fire chief in neighboring Country Club Hills, has assured anyone who will listen that he’s made total restitution for his crime and has been a model citizen since his singular foul-up.
Not much of that has seemed to make a difference to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who filed suit to block Agpawa from taking office in Markham based on state statute. In his stead, and as the process plays out, the Markham City Council has installed veteran Alderman Ernest Blevins to serve as interim mayor.
Along the way, state Sen. Terry Link (D-Gurnee) moved to sponsor SB225.
"This is the right thing to do," he recently told the Tribune, offering the case of Jeff McBride as another example of how current law on the matter can sometimes be too stringent.
Just last April, McBride was the top vote-getter for the Waukegan School District 60 board but has been unable to take office because of a 1981 conviction for felony theft for stealing an air conditioner.
"He's been a model citizen ever since," Link told the Tribune. "Why should we prohibit that person from serving in public office for the rest of his life?"
The version of SB225 passed by the Senate only applies to people convicted of "infamous crimes," and does not extend to those convicted as a child sex offender.
Now in the House, lead sponsor Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) told the Tribune she is intent on making certain language in the bill even more clear.
"It didn't address people who previously held public office" and were convicted of felonies related to that service, she said. "As you know, we've had a problem with people committing crimes while in public office. We want to preclude people who betrayed the public trust."
The House is likely to consider the bill during the spring session that begins Jan. 23.