John Bambenek is not fit to serve on the Illinois Community College Board

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Dear Gov. Rauner: 

As background, you appointed John Bambenek to the Illinois Community College Board in 2017. James Tinsley of Urbana represents everything that is right with our community college system. He started at Parkland Community College in 2013. In 2014, he was elected student trustee for Parkland and served on the Parkland Board of Trustees until 2015. In 2015, due to his hard work and good grades, Mr. Tinsley transferred to the University of Illinois and will be graduating this semester with his undergraduate degree. In 2016, Mr. Tinsley ran for the Champaign County Board and won both a contested primary and general elections. 

On February 7, 2018, Bambenek filed a "Verified Petition for Appointment of Special Prosecutor to Investigate Champaign County Board Member, James B. Tinsley," in Champaign County Circuit Court wherein Bambenek attested under oath that, "According to the Champaign County Circuit Clerk website, James B. Tinsley was convicted of a felony in Champaign County Court Case 2009CF001256." This statement was utterly false and if Bambenek's sworn statement under oath that he looked at Mr. Tinsley's court file is correct than he knowingly lied about the contents of said file as it never contained any indication that Mr. Tinsley was "convicted of a felony."

Bambenek's petition went on to allege that Mr. Tinsley was not qualified to serve on the Champaign County Board because the Illinois Constitution prohibits anyone serving in said office who has been "convicted of a felony"; and, that Mr. Tinsley had committed the crime of perjury when he filed his Statement of Candidacy certifying he was qualified for the office. Since Mr. Tinsley was never convicted of a felony, these statements were also false. 

Bambenek called a reporter from The News-Gazette and informed him of his petition. On February 9, 2018, The News-Gazette ran an article that stated: "Bambenek’s suit also says that Tinsley was convicted of a felony in 2010 and was fined $1,136.20, a sum that remains unpaid." This false statement, originating from Bambenek and then relayed by him to the media, was published to tens of thousands of people in the community where Mr. Tinsley lives. On February 12, 2018, Bambenek withdrew his petition but the damage to Mr. Tinsley from Bambenek's false statements has already been done. 

Bambenek's actions demonstrate that he is obviously not fit to serve on the Illinois Community College Board. He falsely stated, under oath, that a former student trustee of the community college he lives in - someone who was able to obtain his degree from community college and who is about to graduate from the University of Illinois - was a convicted felon. He then relayed that information to the media and it was published in an article in The News-Gazette. Bambenek's only purpose for doing so was to defame a successful community college student for political purposes. Bambenek did so knowing that his statement that Mr. Tinsley was a convicted felon was false and defamatory. Bambenek did so knowing that Mr. Tinsley is a young black man and that his false statement that Mr. Tinsley was a convicted felon carried with it racial undertones. The Illinois Community College Board cannot have a member serving on it who knowingly is defaming the black community college students in his community - trying to shame them into quitting their education and their professional appointments - with such false smears as that they are "convicted of a felony." Bambenek's appointment must be terminated immediately. 

Very truly yours, 

The Undersigned



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