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Only Oswego

Oswego Election Controversy Legal Bills Adding Up

Feb 04, 2015 09:13PM ● By Steven Jack

The legal bills in the Oswego election ballot battle that played out in November, December and January have started arriving at Village Hall. 

According to documents obtained by Only Oswego, the village currently owes nearly $53,000 between the three law firms involved in the matter. The total is for November and December only, and Village President Brian LeClercq said this week he fully expects the final tally to eclipse $100,000 when January’s bills are added to the total. 

“Let’s put this in perspective,” LeClercq said. “This is money that could have funded 35 percent of our current ash tree replacement program. That’s what kind of impact this will have.”

The largest portion of the legal bills belongs to the village’s law firm of Ottosen, Britz, Kelly, Cooper, Gilbert & DiNolfo. Itemized election billable hours total about $30,000, the documents show.

The village owes the firm of Hervas, Condon & Bersani $16,650. Partner Charles Hervis represented the village’s Electoral Board throughout the legal proceedings. 

Finally, $6,380 is due to the firm of Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, Dicianni and Krafthefer. Partner Keri-Lyn Krafthefer represented Village Clerk Tina Touchette.

“All this was done at the expense of the taxpayers,” LeClercq said. “Everyone in Oswego loses. We can point fingers if we want and say it was this person’s fault or that person’s fault, but what I want is to move forward and hear from these candidates to find out what they are going to do to lead our community.”

Controversy background

The legal wrangling over the April election began in November after a 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 file. 

Former Village President candidate and Trustee Terry 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 are running for village offices believed they had until Dec. 22 to file their petitions, as has been past village practice and was stated in the village’s candidate election packet and on its website.

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

After a series of candidate petition objections, the village’s Electoral Board ruled Jan. 5 that all candidates should appear on the April 7 ballot. About one week later, village trustees voted to file suit against the village and county clerks to force 23rd Circuit Court Judge Stephen Krentz to determine the April election process. 

Krentz ruled Jan. 21 the village had no legal authority to change its election process without a referendum, forcing the village to hold a partisan election and allowing all candidates on the ballot.

Less than a week after the ruling, Michels dropped out of the race, saying he didn't want the election controversy to be a distraction "from the truth and real issues that this campaign should be about.”

In a statement, Michels blamed the costs incurred by taxpayers on trustee candidate West, who was the first to file election petition objections against Michels and Selmer. West shot back days later, saying he and his lawyers made several attempts to settle the matter with Michels, but Michels refused.