WASHINGTON — A candidate for the Washington Community High School board has been charged with retail theft, according to authorities.
April Crotts was arrested Jan. 11 at Costco at 301 W. Washington St. in East Peoria, according to a police report the Journal Star obtained through an Illinois Freedom of Information Act request.
She will next appear in court on Feb. 19 in Pekin on the misdemeanor charge.
Crotts was hired Dec. 1 as a deputy elections clerk in the office of new Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman. She also was a leading advocate for victims of the 2013 Washington tornado.
Ackerman said Crotts is no longer working in his office.
Crotts is accused of stealing $227.89 worth of women's clothing, shoes, hair care and body care products from Costco. Some stolen items were concealed in her coat, the police report stated, and she was wearing boots and a vest that she had taken from the store's clothing section.
Crotts purchased some items but was prevented from leaving the store by police, who escorted her into the store's loss-prevention office.
An unidentified man who was with Crotts also was taken into the office, but he was released and not charged, the report stated.
Crotts was handcuffed and driven in a squad car to the Tazewell County Justice Center in Pekin.
Like all new employees in his office, Ackerman said, Crotts was on probation for a year. Her last day of employment was Jan. 15.
Crotts, 37, is one of three candidates for three open seats on the Washington high school board in the April 2 election. It isn't known if Crotts has decided to remain a candidate. She could not be reached for comment.
Crotts first became publicly connected to Washington tornado recovery when she confronted then-Gov. Pat Quinn on Dec. 31, 2013, in a packed banquet room at Five Points Washington. It was supposed to be a news conference about the upcoming deadline for tornado victims to register for federal disaster grants and low-interest loans.
Crotts, whose home was not damaged by the tornado, was the spokeswoman for a grassroots, Facebook-driven advocacy group that was trying to cut through red tape to help tornado victims.
"The safety nets we thought would be there aren't there," Crotts told Quinn. "We've done all we can to get help, and we're tired."
Crotts had a brief, private conversation after the news conference with Quinn, who took notes. Shortly after their meeting, a member of Quinn's staff met with Crotts and discussed her concerns.
She remains an advocate for tornado victims more than five years after the EF-4 twister tore through Washington. She's also taken on other community causes and become a frequent speaker at government and public meetings.