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Village of Oswego Files Suit in Election Battle

Jan 14, 2015 12:56PM ● By Steven Jack

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please find attached above a copy of the official complaint.

It’s official. The village of Oswego filed suit Tuesday in Kendall County court, seeking a remedy to its ongoing April 7 election ballot controversy. 

According to the suit, the village is seeking an injunction that would force the Village and County clerks’ offices to conduct a primary election in February and abide by a unanimous village resolution passed in July that officially makes the village’s election process non-partisan. The first hearing will come before 23rd Circuit Court Judge Stephen Krentz at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 16.

“This is a ‘friendly’ suit intended to resolve the various issues at hand,” said Village Administrator Steve Jones.

At a special board meeting Friday, Trustees Terry Michels, Tony Giles, Scott Volpe and Village President Brian LeClercq voted to move forward with the lawsuit while Trustees Judy Sollinger and Pam Parr voted against it. 

Saying she believed the vote was a conflict of interest for trustees running for office in April, Trustee and Village President candidate Gail Johnson refused to vote.

The need for a primary election was triggered after three candidates — Village President candidate Giles and trustee candidates James Marter and his son James Marter II filed as write-ins during the filing period that ended Dec. 29. 

According to the suit, Village Clerk Tina Touchette has refused to certify the write-in petitions and County Clerk Debbie Gillette has refused to call for a primary election. Their actions follow a legal battle that erupted in November after the July resolution passed unanimously by village trustees changed the village's election process to non-partisan. 

Non-partisan elections require a November filing period and a possible February primary if enough candidates or write-ins file. 

Village President candidate 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.

Those candidates that filed during the December filing period are Village Trustees Giles and Gail Johnson for village president, and trustee candidates Ryan Kauffmann, Karin McCarthy-Lange, Joe West, Brian Thomas and Rasma Motykowski.

The suit also details the village’s checkered past in conducting elections. Over the course of the past 25 years, the village has used the partisan, non-partisan and a hybrid of both methods. July’s resolution passed 6-0 by trustees was meant to clarify once and for all that the village was to conduct non-partisan elections. 

Several trustees, including Johnson and Giles have acknowledged they were not aware that non-partisan elections required a November filing period and filed according to the village’s erroneous information. 

For his part, Michels has said he realized the village filing date error about two weeks after receiving his election documents from the village. He later filed his paper work and that of Selmer about 10 minutes before the final November deadline. 

All candidates faced a series of petition objection hearings, and the village's Electoral Board recently ruled that all candidates should appear on the April 7 ballot.