Sopko is unable to participate in board action because he is under house arrest while out on bail, and the potential lack of a quorum could prevent the board from handling business matters, said Commissioner Joe Conway. Park district Director Cindy Grannan isn't ready to take that same stance, however.
Some board members have discussed the possibility of his resignation, Sopko has yet to do so. In Illinois, there are only four ways for an elected official to leave office: election, resignation, criminal conviction or death.
"He needs to resign so we can carry out the business of the park district," Conway said. "We need him to resign, so we can appoint someone to fill his seat."
Michelle Sopko is charged with felony theft, conducting a financial crimes enterprise, identity theft, official misconduct and forgery. She was fired from her job as a part-time bookkeeper/administrative assistant with the fire district in December 2012. It's alleged that she funneled $352,000 from the district's payroll and accounts payable system into the couple's bank account over the course of 30 months.
Charles Sopko, Oak Forest's deputy fire chief, faces charges of felony theft, conducting a financial criminal enterprise and forgery. He is on unpaid leave from the Oak Forest Fire Department.
The accusations have had a ripple effect in the community, Conway said. People have questioned the handling of the park district's funds. The park district has checks and balances instituted to detect and foil any type of financial malfeasance, said park district Director Cindy Grannan, adding the district has uncovered no wrongdoing done by Charles Sopko.
"As a board member or a commissioner, they don't handle any financial matters," Grannan told Patch. "[They handle] policy and procedures. They don't have their hands in the day-to-day operations. If you don't touch anything, there's nothing to investigate."
While the board had previously adopted a "wait and see" attitude about Sopko's future on the governmental body, Conway said he thinks Sopko resigning would be the best decision for all those involved.
"Hopefully it happens sooner, rather than later," Conway said. "He needs to focus on his life, his family. Taking this off his plate would probably be better for him."
Residents are concerned about the district's funds and have expressed a distrust in Sopko, Conway said.
"Whether I think he's guilty or not, that doesn't matter. It's what the public thinks," he said.
"He's not going to be able to carry on the business of the park district."
Grannan was hesitant to call for Sopko's resignation.
"I know that we have a business to run, and that at times it's going to be a crunch, and put an undue burden on the other commissioners," she said. "But it's not my position to decide that fate."
The couple's next court date is April 3.
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