Disregarding the advice of the village attorney, the Forest Park Electoral Board voted 3-0 on Jan. 23 to disallow a binding referendum on video gambling to appear on the March primary ballot.

The electoral board, consisting of Mayor Anthony Calderone, Commissioner Tom Mannix and Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz, ruled six of petition pages circulated by proponents of the referendum had a different heading than the remaining 200-plus pages, thus invalidating all of them.

James Watts, the owner of O’Sullivan’s Public House, a local tavern, filed objections to the referendum petitions. The electoral accepted the argument of Watt’s attorney, noted election lawyer James Nally, that the law requires that the headings of all the petition sheets shall be the same.

“This is in my mind a cut-and-dried issue,” Mannix said before the vote. “‘Shall’ means there is no wiggle room.”

Village Attorney Tom Bastian said during the hearing that he thought throwing out only the six petition sheets with the incorrect date of Nov. 8, 2016 date for the referendum would be the appropriate remedy.

“I think the appropriate remedy is to strike those six sheets,” said Bastian, “I think there is substantial compliance.”

During the hearing, Calderone seemed to agree that throwing out just six of the petition sheets would be the appropriate remedy.

“I think it would be best to throw out those six sheets,” Calderone said.

The six sheets with the different heading contained less than 100 of the more nearly 3,000 valid signatures on the petitions.

But after a short recess and time to consider the matter, Calderone changed his mind.

After the vote Calderone said that he changed his mind because he read the law. 

“It was very simple,” Calderone said.

Proponents of the referendum said that they will appeal the electoral board’s decision to the Cook County Circuit Court.

“We expect to prevail at the Circuit Court,” said Jordan Kuehn, the president of Let Forest Park Vote on Video Gaming, the group behind the referendum effort. “These people are just [local] elected officials and the clerk; they don’t do election boards every day, so they’re not well versed in the law. That’s fine. That’s why there’s the appeal process, so we can get a final determination at the circuit court.”

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