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Oswego Trustee 'Smells a Rat' in Election Snafu

Dec 10, 2014 02:42PM ● By Steven Jack

The battle by several Oswego candidates to get their names on the April 7 election ballot took another turn Monday night. 

A special meeting was called last week to possibly repeal a July resolution that changed the village’s partisan election procedure to non-partisan; however, the absence of two trustees made that vote an impossibility, as the same number of trustees who originally passed the resolution (six) must be present to repeal it.

RELATED Oswego Village Trustees Spar Over Election Filing-Period Controversy

Trustee Terry Michels, who is at the center of the controversy, and Trustee Scott Volpe, both sent notice to the press Monday afternoon that they would not attend the meeting. 

Michels said he was not attending on the advice of his attorney, while Volpe said he believed that discussions over a 17-page confidential memo by Village Attorney Karl Ottosen discussing the ramifications of repealing the resolution should be conducted in closed session. A closed session was not part of Monday night’s meeting. 

“Because the 2015 Consolidated Election is currently in process actions taken by the Village Board to tamper with that process is at best unethical, at worst illegal and could be viewed as violating the constitutional rights of some of our citizens,” Volpe said.

During Monday night’s meeting, Trustees Pam Parr and Gail Johnson, who is also a candidate for Village President, continually questioned Ottosen over his memo, saying they felt threatened by language stating trustees could be charged with crimes should the July resolution be repealed. That memo is attached at the top of this article as a .pdf file. 

The election controversy erupted two weeks ago when Michels and trustee candidate Diane Selmer 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. 

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

Michels has 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.

Michels has been questioned by several trustees for not alerting the Village Clerk when he discovered erroneous filing deadline information was published by the village. 

Also during Monday’s meeting, Ottosen revealed that he and Michels did have a conversation shortly after Michels obtained his election packet about an error in the documents regarding the amount of signatures required to get on the ballot. Question by Johnson about whether Michels also alerted him of the incorrect filing dates, Ottosen said he had not. 

“He mentioned one error and doesn’t mention another that directly benefits him to village staff … I find that personally appalling,” said Trustee Tony Giles, who has announced his candidacy for Village President.

Parr said she feels a larger cover-up is at play.

“I smell a rat, and I smell a big one,” she said to Ottosen. “Clearly both you and Terry knew something that didn’t get all the way to the rest of us.”

Ottosen denied participating in anything unethical. 

Without the full board in attendance to repeal the July resolution, remaining board members agreed to place a similar agenda item onto the next Village Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Petition objections

In addition to Monday night’s meeting, the village’s Electoral Board will meet Wednesday night to consider objections filed to the petitions of Michels and Selmer. The objections were filed by potential trustee candidate Joe West. 

The Electoral Board is made up of Village President Brian LeClercq, Trustees Judy Sollinger and Library Board Trustee Terry Tamblyn. 

The objections were filed based on the contention that the petitions were filed erroneously because the village would have been required to hold a referendum to change its election system. No referendum vote was ever held.