Politically Connected Board Appointments Continue at Morton High School District 201

Posted May 28, 2022.
On Wednesday, April 13, 2022, the Morton High School District 201 Board interviewed three candidates to fill the board vacancy of Melissa Cundari, who announced her resignation in March. The board application stated:

“To be appointed to fill a school board vacancy, a person must have the same qualifications as the person he or she was appointed to replace.”
(Morton D201 Board Vacancy Application)

Two of the three candidates held master’s degrees like Cundari. However, the Board appointed Maria Ayala Gallegos, the only candidate without academic qualifications equivalent to her predecessor (see all resumes below). Ayala Gallegos had one thing the other candidates did not: connections to the Town of Cicero and to the Cicero Voters Alliance (CVA), the political action committee of Town President Larry Dominick.

  • Ayala Gallegos received over $629,000 in town contracts from 2012-2021 for her company MAS Enterprises & Marketing, Inc. 
  • In addition, Ayala Gallegos is directly employed by the Town of Cicero as a community liaison, earning a $35,000 salary.
  • She has donated at least $2,500 to the CVA as an individual and through her business MAS Enterprises & Marketing, Inc. since 2013. 
  • She has been president of the Cicero Mexican Cultural Committee since 2006, which has also made political donations to CVA.

This is not the first time a D201 School Board position has been filled by politically connected candidates. Cundari, in fact, was one such appointment in 2019 when Kasumba “Kal” Lwanga resigned. Out of the eight candidates interviewed, Cundari alone had political connections to the Town of Cicero. She had previously served on the Morton College Board of Trustees, was married to Town of Cicero Assessor Emilio “Emo” Cundari, and was the only candidate to have made a political donation to CVA. Two years later, however, her closest connection to the Town of Cicero ended when Melissa Cundari filed for divorce in October 2021. She resigned from the board just five months later. Her former husband Emilio Cundari was named as one of several defendants in a civil rights case filed against the Town of Cicero in December 2020 by an employee alleging a sexually hostile work environment.

Overall, six of the seven D201 board members: 

  • have contributed thousands in political donations to Cicero Voters Alliance
  • are employed by the Town of Cicero and/or have received over half a million dollars in Town contracts 
D201 Board President Jeffry Pesek is the most financially invested in the Town of Cicero and in the CVA:
  • Pesek has received over $1M in Town contracts for his company Illinois Community Resources over the last ten years. 
  • His brother Craig Pesek has received over $1.2M in Town contracts for his company Public Solutions within the same time period. 
  • Both companies received the same exact amount each year: $94,322 for Illinois Community Resources and $113,655 for Public Solutions. 
  • Jeffry Pesek’s employer The Dog Stop has received over $379,000 in business from the Town of Cicero since Larry Dominick took office in 2005. 
  • Pesek has donated over $86,000 to the CVA since 2004. 

All but the longest-serving D201 Board Member have connections to the Town of Cicero and have contributed thousands in political donations to Cicero Voters Alliance

Board Member City Payroll or Contracts Political Donations to Larry Dominick On Board Since
Maria Eugenia Ayala Gallegos
Jeff Pesek (President)
Lido Manetti, Jr. (Vice President)
Jessica Jaramillo-Flores (Secretary)
Mark D. Kraft
Dr. Margaret Kelly
none identified
Sandra Tomschin
former Director of Delinquent Accounts and Freedom of Information Officer for Town of Cicero, current Cicero Public Library Director

Three Seats Up for Election in early 2023

Pesek, Manetti, and Kraft's seats are all up for election next year on April 4, 2023

Learn About Running for OfficeWatch "Civic Series: What It Truly Means to Serve on a School Board"
Town of Cicero Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports and Vendor Payments, 2011-2021