The Racine Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously at a special school board meeting held Tuesday, June 9 to accept newly elected school board member Lisa Parham’s letter of resignation.
While the board did not openly talk about Parham having a felony, several school board members asked how school board president Melvin Hargrove discovered the felony, how the school district can avoid having the situation happen again and they asked for clarified on why Hargrove had been acting on the behalf of the school board in the matter.
Parham was not present at the meeting.
Hargrove held a press conference on Monday, June 8 where he announced that Parham “may not be able to serve as an elected board member.”
Many sources have told the Racine County Eye that it’s because she has past felony convictions for forgery. Online records show that Parham – under the name Shelesia Mann – was charged in 1994 with nine counts of uttering a forgery, a class C felony. She signed a $4,500 signature bond in July 1994 when the charges were filed, and Parham agreed on Feb. 27, 1995 to a plea deal for two of the nine counts. The other seven counts of forgery were dismissed as part of Parham’s plea deal.
Under the Wisconsin Constitution, anyone with a felony conviction that has not been pardoned is ineligible to run for and hold public elected office, including the school board. The state Declaration of Candidacy form is clear about the restriction.
School board member Dennis Wiser took the opportunity to clarify that the votes Parham did cast are not disqualified, which RUSD’s legal counsel Gib Berthelsen further explained was because Parham was considered “a qualified member” of the school board at the time of those votes. Parham was the swing vote in a highly contentious vote about several handbook changes.
“The business of the school district has to go on,” Berthelsen said. “She is treated as ‘a de facto’ board member. So the actions taken by the board while she was present and before any of this became known are lawful and in place.”
Wiser also asked if the district had an obligation to report how the school district became aware of Parham’s record, which Berthelsen said he thought it did have an obligation to report.
Don Nielsen asked about the district “stumbled upon” the information via an anonymous letter handed to him by superintendent Lolli Haws. Hargrove reiterated that the information was delivered to him by Haws on Monday and he was unsure how she received the information.
“I can only tell you what I did once I received the packet,” Hargrove said.
Berthelsen reassured the board that Hargrove handled the matter appropriately.
“Rather, this has been a fact gathering time for the board president (Hargrove) from the first the issue came up,” Berthelsen explained. “He was told by the superintendent that this is a board issue and this is something that the board president — for as new as he may be — to handle as opposed to the administration.
The school board is expected to appoint an interim school board member within the next 30 days to serve out the rest of Parham’s term.