Oh, come on. Really?
On Monday the Review asked Commissioner and Electoral Board member Tom Mannix about his business partnership with Mark Hosty. Hosty, a former commissioner and current bar owner/manager, is hip deep in the effort to block a binding vote on the future of video gaming in the village. Mannix is on the official village body which gathered Tuesday morning after press time to decide next steps in the battle for access to the March ballot to propose such a referendum.
In an email, Mannix acknowledged he and Hosty are in the business of buying and renovating housing for rent or for sale. That’s what the Secretary of State’s office reports on public records for Mite Limited Corporation. Hosty is president of the 5-year-old company. Mannix is secretary.
We’d call having Mannix on the three-member electoral board a flagrant conflict of interest. How can he impartially hear a case involving his business partner? His statement to us that there is no conflict “in either fact, law or reality,” is remarkably insulting to residents and to common sense.
The endless battle over video gaming in this village no longer is much about bars and gambling. It is really about just how many ways village government’s core leadership is going to repeatedly and aggressively attack the rights of citizens to be heard on this issue. The grinding down of good will and an expectation of fair treatment demeans this village.
While the makeup of the electoral board is set by state statute and calls for appointment of the senior elected commissioner, there are three other commissioners on the village council. Any of them would be a far more reasonable choice to sit on this commission alongside Mayor Anthony Calderone and Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz.
Mannix should have long ago recused himself from any matter involving Hosty. The mayor and other commissioners should long ago have pressured him to recuse himself.
This is clear cut. And the mayor embarrasses himself by allowing this to continue.
Stepping back from this issue, from Forest Park specifically, the entire notion of local electoral boards is suspect. How, in any small town, are elected officials supposed to rule on the validity of nominating petition signatures for either their opponents or their allies? How can they decide the validity of referendum requests on issues fully within the scope of their political efforts?
In Cook County, election challenges already have been taken out of the hands of local elected officials for park districts, library boards and school districts. Those decisions are routinely handled by boards appointed by the county clerk’s offices. Time to make that change for all municipal electoral disputes as well.