The federal embezzlement case against a former Lincoln-Way School District 210 superintendent has been dragging on for more than two years and is scheduled for a hearing next spring without any clear answers as to when it may go to trial.
On Sept. 13, 2017, 82-year-old Lawrence Wyllie was indicted on federal fraud charges, accused of misappropriating funds from Lincoln-Way for his own benefit and concealing the district’s true financial condition from the public.
Wyllie retired as Lincoln-Way’s superintendent in 2013 after 24 years with the district. In the years after his retirement, the district went through a financial crisis that led to the controversial closing of the 8-year-old Lincoln-Way North High School building in 2016.
Wyllie’s case has yet to go trial, and the next court hearing is not until March 27, court records show. A former federal prosecutor previously has said his case was postponed because of an unspecified health issues.
Liz Sands, founder of the defunct Lincoln-Way Area Taxpayers Unite, which filed a lawsuit to block the closing of North High School, said Wyllie’s case is taking a long time.
“It’s unfortunate if he’s truly sick, I’m sorry about that … I don’t think it should stop the wheels of justice from turning,” Sands said.
Wyllie’s attorney, Dan Webb, failed to respond to a call and messages about the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Fitzpatrick declined to comment.
Wyllie continues to receive income from his pension with the Teachers’ Retirement System of the state of Illinois. TRS spokesman Dave Urbanek said Wyllie could lose his pension if convicted of the charges.
Wyllie received about $340,191 from the TRS thus far this year and he’s received more than $2 million total since he retired from Lincoln-Way, according to the TRS.
Sands said it’s unfortunate Wyllie is collecting his pension.
“He should have to face the charges in court, and, if he’s guilty, he should lose his pension,” she said.
Since Wyllie was indicted, former lead prosecutor Sunil Harjani, who specialize in white-collar crime prosecutions, has become a federal judge.
He was sworn in Jan. 10.
In August, a Cook County judge appointed Webb as special prosecutor to investigate why the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped criminal charges against actor Jussie Smollett, who is accused of staging an attack on himself.
Webb has defended former Illinois Gov. George Ryan and companies such as Microsoft, Verizon and Philip Morris.
Sands said she believes Wyllie’s management of the district played a role in its financial turmoil and the closing of North. She said district officials had enough information before Lincoln-Way West was built to know it was not needed.
The school opened in 2009, a year after North opened.
“Unfortunately, we plowed ahead,” she said.
North and West were built in the late 2000s to accommodate projected student population growth that never happened. Student enrollment projections were not matching reality as early as fiscal 2006, according to the district.
Both schools were built as the result of a successful referendum to issue $225 million in bonds for their construction. Taxpayers in the district will continue to pay off those bonds, including the ones to build North.
Last year, the North campus still housed the Super Dog Obedience Training program, which prosecutors said Wyllie had built with no benefit to the schools.