Filing glitch ousts political hopefuls

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By JOSH ADAMS

Two candidates hoping to win public office this spring were knocked out of the running early because of a paperwork glitch, according to Forest Park officials.

Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz said mayoral hopeful Negale Jackson and council hopeful Richard Scafidi both failed to turn in a receipt proving they filed a financial disclosure form with the Cook County Clerk's office. This omission disqualifies the two from even appearing on the ballot, Moritz said.

"I am hereby notifying you that your name will not be placed on the list of names certified to the Cook County Clerk to appear on the Feb. 27, 2007, consolidated primary election ballot," Moritz said in a Dec. 19 written notice that was hand delivered to both men.

Scafidi said he was disappointed by the decision, but that the error was his own. Jackson, however, said he did file that receipt with the village clerk and is challenging Moritz's ruling.

"I'm not really worried about that," Jackson said Wednesday morning. "I'm on the phone with my attorney right now."

Jackson said he expects his name will still appear on the ballot for the February primary.

"It's some kind of mix up on her part," Jackson said.

According to state election law, each candidate must file a disclosure form with the county clerk listing any financial relationship the candidate has with the municipality. The top portion of this form is retained by the county clerk, Moritz said, and the bottom portion is given to the candidate to be filed with local election officials.

Unlike the loyalty oath, the financial disclosure form is not optional, Village Administrator Mike Sturino said.

"Filing this with the nominating papers is mandatory, not directory," Sturino said.

Scafidi, a 22-month member of the zoning board of appeals, said he misunderstood what was required.

"It was my mistake, I misinterpreted something in the instructions," Scafidi said. "It happens. I'm still on the ZBA and will continue to work on that."

The discrepancy was noticed on the morning of Dec. 19 after the filing period closed at 5 p.m. on Dec. 18. Moritz said she was preparing to certify the petitioners as valid candidates to county officials and was using a checklist to make sure each candidate's paperwork was in order.

A candidate's guide published by the state is available online and at village hall. The document lists the necessary paperwork each petitioner must submit to appear on the ballot. According to the guide, petitioners don't have to submit their receipt of financial disclosure with their petitions, but must do so before the close of the filing period.

This year's filing period began on Dec. 11 and ended Dec. 18.

If Jackson's name is omitted from the ballot, the mayor's race will still require a primary election on Feb. 27, 2007. Of the remaining candidates, incumbent Anthony Calderone, Commissioner Patrick Doolin and Commissioner Terry Steinbach, one will be eliminated by the primary balloting.

However, with Scafidi out of the running there are eight candidates running for the remaining four council seats. Therefore, February's primary will not include commission candidates.

"The fact that Mr. Scafidi won't be certified means there will not be a primary for the commissioner's race," Moritz said.

The general election is scheduled for April 17, 2007.

According to Mark Mossman, director of election information for the state, Jackson has until Dec. 26 to file his objection with the village clerk. The local electoral board will hear the case. Calderone is a member of the electoral board but will not be allowed to hear the case because it involves a mayoral candidate, Mossman said. That seat will be filled by the senior commissioner.

Within 10 days of the electoral board's ruling, either party can appeal to the Cook County Circuit Court.

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