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Oswego Village Trustees Spar Over Election Filing-Period Controversy

Dec 02, 2014 10:21PM ● By Steven Jack

In a sometimes contentious and rowdy Village Board meeting Tuesday night, Trustee and Village President candidate Terry Michels was accused of engaging in “Springfield, Michael Madigan-ish” politics.

The remarks were made by Tony Giles, a fellow Trustee and Village President candidate, as the Village Board discussed the controversy that erupted this week over the April election candidate petition filing period. Michels and one other candidate were the only two to file during the filing period for non-partisan elections that ended Nov. 24. 

Several other candidates who plan to run for village offices believed they had until Dec. 22 to file their petitions, as has been past village practice and is erroneously stated in the village’s candidate election packet and on its website. 

RELATED: Several Oswego Candidates Face Uncertain Ballot Future

If the other candidates are not eventually allowed on the April 7 ballot, Michels and trustee candidate Diane Selmer will be the only two names to appear for village president and three open village trustee seats. 

Giles, along with Trustee and Village President candidate Gail Johnson, questioned Michels over when he became aware that the filing dates would be different, due to the Village Board unanimously adopting the non-partisan form of elections in July, and why he didn’t inform the village clerk or village attorney of the discrepancy. 

Michels said he became aware of the earlier deadline two weeks after picking up his candidate petition packet from the Village Clerk’s office and while reading information contained within the packet from the Illinois State Board of Elections. Those documents state non-partisan election filing ended Nov. 24.

“That was the information that was in one of the documents in the packet we were given” Michels said. "I would expect that all candidates, regardless of the position they're running for, would read the information, as well."

Giles also questioned Michels about the timing of his filing, which was made shortly before the 5 p.m. deadline Nov. 24. 

“You knew about the change. You always seemed like in your previous years on the board you were forthcoming in telling the village attorney or anyone else that there was an issue or they were wrong … (but here you didn’t.)” Giles said. “It just seems like Springfield, Mike Madigan-ish that you would do that. … Do you think it’s part of fair campaign (practices) to know about information that’s wrong and not (inform others)?”

Michels said he was merely following state election law. 

"We are a nation built on laws," Michels said to jeering from audience members. “The information from the state said to file from Nov. 17 to 24. ... I’ve had numerous calls with the state board of election to confirm that that was (correct) information,” he said. 

The discussion, which included an account of past village election policies and current election law from Village Attorney Karl Ottosen, ended with Village President Brian LeClercq calling a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 8 to possibly repeal the July ordnance that set off the controversy. If the ordinance is repealed, it's unclear how the election filing period will proceed.

Ottosen warned trustees that repealing the July ordinance could mean legal action against the village. However, he said he would provide trustees with a memo outlining the ramifications of a repeal before any vote.

To see the entire discussion, watch the video below.

Tuesday, Dec. 2 Village Board meeting.