Wolfson Says He Will Remain On D. 225 Board While Fighting Illegal Stocks-Sale Charges

Illinois law states elected officials are innocent until proven guilty and can continue to serve in office.

District 225 School Board member Jeffrey Wolfson said he will continue serving on the board .

In his first public appearance since the charge was filed last week, Wolfson said he believes he can keep his legal issues and service to the board completely separate.

“Two worlds, zero connection, and I intend to serve unless the board decides I shouldn’t,” he said before Monday night’s board meeting at .

The school board apparently will leave the decision up to Wolfson while the legal process grinds.

“Absolutely,” said board president Skip Shein, when asked if he feels Wolfson can separate board service and fighting the charge. “If the time comes he feels different, he’ll address it then.”

Wolfson currently is serving a four-year term that expires in 2013.

He showed up about 15 minutes before the Monday board meeting, exchanging friendly greetings with fellow board members and District 225 superintendent Mike Riggle.

Different standards on board members vs. employees

Riggle said different standards apply to a board member than an employee of a school district.

“If you look at Illinois state code, he is an elected official, not an employee,” he said. “At this point in time, there is no basis on which the board can take action on that. He’ll remain a board member until such time he no longer meets that criteria.

“We fully expect he’ll continue to participate as a board member.”

According to Illinois law regarding school boards, a board member may become ineligible to hold public office if he or she is convicted of a felony, bribery or perjury, among other crimes.

Wolfson’s first comments in the meeting came when he asked Glenbrook North senior Jordan Cotler, headed toward a national science competition and meeting with President Obama in Washington, D.C., next month, if anyone had beaten him to the patent office over Cotler’s work in developing cryptology with quantum mechanics.

When board comments jokingly favored Stanford over MIT as Cotler’s final two college choices, Wolfson chimed in, “MIT has a better Frisbee team.”

Missing finance committee meeting an ‘oversight’

Triblocal reported last Thursday that Wolfson missed a meeting of the finance committee, his self-professed specialty, immediately after the stock-selling charges were announced. But he explained his absence had nothing to do with his legal tangles.

“It was the first one I missed, and it was an absolute oversight on my part,” Wolfson said. “I had been out of the office and I didn’t see my calendar. I screwed up. Believe me, I wanted to be there. That’s the one thing that I really feel I can add to the board, but I missed the meeting. I’ll catch up on it. Hopefully, it won’t happen again.”

Wolfson, 58, is accused of allegedly selling declining stocks without following U.S. government rules surrounding such sales, allowing him to profit illegally while working as a broker-dealer and later as the principal trader at a Chicago broker-dealer that has since gone out of business. 

Beyond illegally short-selling stocks, Wolfson also allegedly taught his brother, Robert Wolfson, among others, how to conduct illegal, or “naked” short sales, according to the SEC’s order. His brother, who lives in West Orange, NJ, is also charged in the civil complaint filed earlier this month.

Together, the pair allegedly raked in some $17 million in illegal profits by short-selling stocks including Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., Novastar Financial Inc. and NYSE Group, according to the order.

Attorney Ira Lee Sorkin, who gained fame for representing hedge-fund manager Bernie Madoff, will represent Wolfson in court.

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