CHICAGO (CBS) — Everyone deserves a second chance.
That’s the message from a Chicago lawmaker, after seeing a 2 Investigators story about a convicted felon who just won election to a suburban school board.
Lindsley Griffin was convicted of burglary in 1988, and sentenced to two years probation. In 2017, he was appointed to the Bellwood School District 88 governing board to fill a vacancy, and was elected to the position earlier this month, even though state law bars convicted felons from holding municipal office.
Griffin declined to comment on whether he informed the school board of his criminal record. District 88 Superintendent Mark Holder said he wasn’t aware of Griffin’s felony conviction, but gave him a glowing recommendation.
“Mr. Griffin is a remarkable man, and doing a great job in our community. I’m just happy he’s a part of our system,” Holder said.
Despite that, Griffin’s fate on the board remains in question, after a confidential letter from a Chicago law firm asked the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to investigate whether he is eligible to continue serving on the school board.
State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) said he believes the state law prohibiting convicted felons from serving in municipal office should be changed.
He noted Griffin’s felony conviction is more than 30 years old.
“There’s no new convictions on his record. He’s lived a model life. Not only that, he built trust in the community,” he said.
Ford co-sponsored legislation that would allow anyone who has completed their sentence in a felony conviction 15 years before taking office to be elected, if they have not had another felony conviction since then.
Anyone who commits a felony while in elected office would not be allowed to run again.
The proposal passed the Illinois Senate, but died in the house last year. He vowed to come up with a similar proposal during the current legislative session.
Ford said, not only is Griffin worthy of the proposed change in state law, many other ex-felons are worthy of holding elected office as well.
“Just the fact that you have a past record doesn’t mean that you’re going to be a bad politician, because we have bad politicians without bad criminal records,” Ford said. “We can’t have a throwaway society.”
Ford said Griffin’s case puts a spotlight on the challenges former felons face in trying to be productive citizens after they complete their sentence.