By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer
SAVANNA, Ill. —
West Carroll Board of Education Vice President Timothy Atherton issued a formal apology on Thursday after reports surfaced that he made threatening comments toward Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney on his personal Facebook page.
“My comment was made in jest, but was perceived as serious. My poor judgment in making the comment has had very serious consequences. I am truly sorry for the anxiety my action has caused and I apologize to everyone for my lapse in plain common sense,” Atherton said about the comment he made two weeks ago.
The board of education formally addressed the issue during its regular meeting on Wednesday. Board President Mike Highland said that over the past week, board members, district office and district staff were contacted about Atherton’s behavior.
Highland added that the issue came to a head Wednesday when an article published in the Carroll County Review alleged that the US Secret Service came to Thomson, Ill., last week as the result of a Facebook post by Atherton. The article claimed that Carroll County Sheriff Jeff Doran received a complaint from a resident that Atherton’s Facebook page said if Romney were elected president, Atherton would either assassinate Romney or have someone do it. Doran allegedly turned the matter to the Secret Service. Doran refused to comment on Thursday.
According to the article, a Secret Service agent worked with Thomson Police Chief Beth Balk on Thursday, Oct. 11, to interview Atherton in his home. Atherton consented to a search, but was not arrested. Calls made to Balk and the Chicago office of the Secret Service have not been returned to the Herald.
The board of education received numerous calls, comments and e-mails demanding the removal of Atherton from the board. Highland said that each constituent was heard. However, the Illinois School Code does not grant local school boards the authority to discipline or remove a school board member from elected office. He added that the board is a governmental body with no legal authority as an individual and actions outside of the duties of the board are not condoned.
“The actions of the past week are the responsibility of individuals not acting as a representative of the West Carroll School District. By reviewing the board policies on board responsibilities and duties and reviewing our oath of office taken every two years, our desire is to refocus our energies on representing our communities’ interest in education,” Highland said. “ It is the responsibility of the electorate to choose or not choose their board representative.”
Atherton assured the board, community and students that this will not happen again. He expressed in his statement that he values being a member of the board of education.
“I will continue to be an advocate to ensure students in our district continue to receive a high-quality education,” Atherton said.