SPRING GROVE – Richmond-Burton Community High School athletic director Patrick Elder could face a felony driving under the influence charge, as prosecutors said they are looking into court records that show he was convicted twice of DUI in the 1990s.
Elder, who was hired in 2006 as the Rockets' athletic director and head football coach, was charged July 15 with driving under the influence of alcohol after Spring Grove police stopped his vehicle on Route 173 shortly after midnight, according to police reports. Police reports show that Elder refused to take any sobriety tests.
Online court records from McLean County show that the 44-year-old administrator, who made $91,185 as athletic director for the 2015-16 school year, was found guilty of DUI in connection with incidents in 1991 and 1995, along with a felony theft conviction from a 1991 incident.
Elder did not return a phone call seeking comment.
DUI convictions are a permanent part of a person's driving record, according to a DUI fact book published by the Illinois Secretary of State's Office.
Penalties for a third DUI conviction include a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail or 480 hours of community service. Other penalties can include a loss of driving privileges for at least 10 years, three to seven years in prison, up to four years of probation and up to $25,000 in fines.
McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney John Gibbons declined to comment specifically on past charges against Elder or his driving record, but he said the State’s Attorney’s Office has begun examining both to determine whether more serious charges are warranted.
“We expect the Spring Grove municipal prosecutor to formally submit it to us for review of enhanced charges,” Gibbons said. “We are already looking into his driving records in advance of that.”
School officials have declined to comment on Elder's recent arrest or what they knew about his record from more than 20 years ago.
Elder was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 24 months on probation after pleading guilty to charges of DUI and improper traffic lane use in 1995, records show. In 1991, he was found guilty of felony theft and another DUI charge, according to online records.
Elder also pleaded guilty in 1993 to a charge of resisting or obstructing a peace officer, according to the McLean County website.
Richmond-Burton School District 157 Superintendent Tom Lind said Monday that the district was aware of the situation but declined to comment because it is a personnel matter. He also declined to say whether district officials were aware of Elder’s previous charges and felony conviction when he was hired. He only said that the school district would have followed the school code for criminal background checks when Elder was hired.
“Then based on that [background check], a person would be hired or not hired based on what was discovered,” Lind said.
Employers may consider any misdemeanor or felony conviction that occurred within the past seven years during an applicant's hiring process, according to an Illinois State Board of Education guidance document published in 2012. Applicants with certain convictions, such as drug and sex crimes or the most serious violent crimes, automatically are denied.
The board also recommends that each district have a policy in place regarding hiring eligibility for individuals with convictions on their record.
In the case of District 157, applicants are required to submit to fingerprint-based background checks that include the statewide Sex Offender Database and Violent Offender Against Youth Database, according to the District 157 board policy manual.
Nothing in the policy manual forbids hiring a person with a previous felony conviction who is not disqualified under state law.
The superintendent is responsible for making dismissal recommendations to the school board "consistent with the board's goal of having a highly qualified, high-performing staff," the policy manual states.
In 11 seasons as head football coach, the Rockets have gone 85-38 under Elder. He has led Richmond-Burton to 10 straight postseason appearances, including a spot in the Class 4A state championship game in 2011.
Practice for the 2017 high school football season begins Monday.
District 157 board president Steve Holtz did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did vice president Dave Thomas. Board members Tom Gough, John Schleibinger, Tracy Highley and Joe Keim also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.