Accusations that three elected officials forged hundreds of signatures to earn a spot on the ballot in this year’s mayoral race were handily dismissed Friday morning by the local electoral board.
Deborah Cole, a resident of 324 Marengo Ave., filed objections last month to the nominating petitions turned in by Mayor Anthony Calderone, Commissioner Patrick Doolin and Commissioner Theresa Steinbach, all of whom are running for the mayor’s office. For each candidate, Cole questioned the authenticity of signatures presumably collected from registered voters.
After Cole labored to make her oral arguments to the election board during the Jan. 5 meeting, Doolin’s attorney, Mathias Delort, said, “It’s difficult to know where to start.”
Cole’s written objections were riddled with spelling and grammatical mistakes, and repeatedly referred to the perceived defects in the nominating petitions as “deflects.” While stating her case to the board, Cole began reading from a document she initially claimed was the objection she filed with the village clerk in December. However, board members said they were unable to follow along using their copies, and a quick comparison revealed Cole was reading from an entirely separate document.
After some debate, Cole acknowledged she was reading from a “rephrasing of the complaint.”
“This is the same complaint,” Cole argued. “The words are just different.”
Regardless of the merit behind Cole’s objections, Mathias said the electoral board must dismiss the arguments because the objector never stated her interests or what relief is being sought. Illinois law dictates that any objections to a candidate’s nominating papers must include the nature of the objection, the interest of the objector and the requested remedy.
“She doesn’t request that the board find these nominations invalid and she doesn’t request that these (candidates) be thrown off the ballot,” Delort said.
Cole defended her objections to the electoral board without the help of an attorney. A fourth candidate who was disqualified from the race by the village clerk for incomplete paperwork, Negale Jackson, was present for the hearing and made several attempts to assist Cole. During the duration of the hour-long hearing, Jackson repeatedly got up from his seat in the gallery to speak with Cole, who was seated directly in front of the electoral board.
Jackson and Cole are both residents of 324 Marengo Ave. and members of the Forest Park Restorative Institute. That institute, Cole said, is a non-profit that attempts to run socially and educationally constructive programs for teenagers.
In requesting a dismissal on behalf of Calderone, attorney Mike Kasper argued along the same lines as Delort with respect to Cole’s objection being incomplete. Kasper, however, said that Cole also did not contest enough of the signatures to disqualify Calderone.
Candidates for both mayor and commissioner needed to collect only 16 signatures to appear on the ballot this year, according to Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz. In Cole’s objection, Kasper said, there are 19 signatures that are not contested.
“Even if she batted 1,000 and was in the objector hall of fame, the candidate would still be on the ballot,” Kasper said.
Cole said she could not dispute the numbers and offered no objection to the motion to dismiss.
“I’m not going to respond to that,” Cole said. “He’s right. (Calderone) does have 19. He definitely has 19.”
Attorney Andrew Raucci won a similar dismissal for Steinbach, who collected more than 330 signatures. Cole’s objection challenged “approximately 151” of the “just fewer than 210 signatures” gathered by Steinbach.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Jackson said he will continue to assist Cole in an appeal of the municipal board’s decision to the Cook County Circuit Court. One issue that was not addressed, Jackson said, is the date of notarization on six pages of signatures collected by Doolin. On those pages, Notary Public Donna Lee Eggers dated her signature Dec. 20, 2006. The deadline for submitting nominating petitions was Dec. 18.
“It is a cause of action to disqualify,” Jackson said.
Cole did raise the issue with the electoral board, though Doolin’s attorney argued that because that specific complaint was not included in the original objection, it’s moot.
Those six pages dated after the close of the filing deadline were time stamped along with the other 13 pages of signatures as being received by the village clerk on Dec. 11, the first day of the filing period.
After the hearing, Doolin acknowledged the discrepancy and said even if the 55 signatures on those pages were tossed out, he still had 130 that were valid. The “scrivener’s error,” he said, was likely a result of the notary’s haste to sign 19 pages successively.
The remaining petitions submitted by Doolin, also signed by Eggers, are dated Dec. 10.
Doolin, Calderone and Steinbach said they were pleased with the outcome of the hearing and are looking forward to getting on with their campaigns.
State election laws allow for appeals to the circuit court within 10 days of the municipal board’s ruling. A court hearing must then be held within 30 days. A consolidated primary for mayor is scheduled for Feb. 27. The general election will be held on April 17.