Ruling on Flossmoor candidate delayed until petition names are checked

This story was updated at 10:04 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2019, to reflect new information from Flossmoor assistant village manager Allison Deitch.

A decision in a challenge to a Flossmoor village board candidate in April’s election has been delayed until the legitimacy of signatures on his nominating petitions can be verified.
 
The village’s local election board decided Wednesday to put off a decision on David Bruni’s candidacy until Cook County determines whether eight signatures on his petitions were submitted by registered voters residing at the listed addresses.
   David Bruni appeared at 
   Wednesday's hearing,
   addressing challenges to his
   candidacy for Flossmoor
   village trustee. 
(Tom Houlihan/
   H-F Chronicle)
 

At its Jan. 2 hearing, the election board — made up of Flossmoor Mayor Paul Braun, Village Clerk Joni Bradley-Scott and Trustee Philip Minga — overruled three of the five objections to Bruni’s petitions from incumbent trustees Perry Hoag and and James Mitros who are seeking re-election.

A fourth objection, regarding the binding of Bruni’s petitions, was upheld and could be enough to have him removed from the April 2 ballot.

Election board members agreed that the objection regarding the legitimacy of the eight signatures was the most significant issue at stake in the petition challenge and that further information was needed before making a final decision on Bruni’s candidacy.

If the board rules against Bruni, he can appeal the decision to the Cook County Circuit Court.

Hoag and Mitros filed nearly identical objections against Bruni’s candidacy. Hoag said the objections to the signatures were based on Cook County voting lists from December of 2018. Their objections also included the names of three Homewood residents who signed Bruni’s petitions.

Patrick Keating, Bruni’s attorney, acknowledged that three Homewood signatures were incorrect and should not be allowed, but said that the other eight signatures and addresses were legitimate. 

Bruni needs 131 signatures from registered voters in Flossmoor to qualify for this spring’s ballot. He submitted a total of 138 signatures on 15 pages of petitions. If the challenges to the 11 signatures from Hoag and Mitros are upheld, Bruni’s total would go down 127, four short of what he needs to be on the ballot.

Wednesday’s hearing marked the first time in recent memory that candidates for local office in Flossmoor have been challenged on the basis of petition improprieties. Braun told the H-F Chronicle earlier this week that it was the first time a challenge has taken place against a candidate seeking office in Flossmoor in the 16 years he has been an elected village official. Such challenges are not uncommon in Chicago and several other south suburban communities.

Hoag and Mitros also filed challenges against trustee candidate Stephen Kelly, who withdrew from the election on Dec. 29.

More than 40 persons were on hand for the hearing and many appeared to be Bruni’s supporters. When Minga made a motion to overrule one of the objections — it had to do with the numbering of pages on petition sheets — applause broke out among audience members.

At the start of the hearing Braun told the audience that the membership of the election board is set by state law and that the board is required to take action when election challenges are filed with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.

According to state election laws, local hearings are to be held no later than five days past the date that candidacy objections are filed. Hoag and Mitros filed their objections against Bruni and Kelly on Dec. 26.

Keating said neither he nor Bruni were informed about Wednesday’s hearing. Allison Dietch, Flossmoor’s assistant village manager, told the election board that certified letters and emails were sent to both Bruni and his attorney. 

“There were no letters or emails or phone calls,” Keating told the board.

Dietch told the H-F Chronicle on Thursday that she left a voicemail with Bruni on Dec. 28 “letting him know there had been a challenge and that I would like to get the paperwork to him. He left me a message Sunday night saying that he received the message.”

Much of the discussion at the hearing had to do with the nature of the four objections other than the signature challenges.

One had to do with the numbering of petition sheets. Another involved the binding of the petitions. A third indicated that Bruni had wrongly referred to this spring’s vote as a “general,” rather than “consolidated” election. A fourth had do with Bruni not putting his street address in a box that called for it — his petitions, however, showed that his address appeared lower down the page.

Kathleen Field Orr, Flossmoor’s village attorney, told that board that election laws require petition numbering and binding and that she could not advise the village to not follow the law.

“I am concerned about issuing an opinion that negates the law,” she said.

Minga, during the discussion on the numbering objection, raised the question of whether the election board has the authority to say that the requirement is a technicality.

Shortly after that, he moved that the numbering objection be overruled and the other two members voted with him.

The board members did not overturn the objection on binding the petitions and ruled that Bruni should have followed that requirement.

The objections on the name of the election on the petitions and whether Bruni’s address needed to go on the box on the petitions were also overturned.

In a statement to the Chronicle, Bruni called the objections to his candidacy “spurious and a sham meant to intimidate normal citizens like me from running for office to improve our village.”

“One hundred thirty-one of our fellow citizens validly signed my petition. Their will should not be overturned by slick election lawyering and fake charges,” he said.

“The people of Flossmoor deserve a choice and the election board should overturn these nonsensical, false objections and allow a competitive election to happen. Flossmoor must move forward under new, positive and inclusive leadership decided by the people." 

He said Hoag and Mitros have each been trustees for 23 years and “now it’s time to allow for new thinking, new energy, and yes, competition. I'm excited to serve this community, but need to be given the chance to compete."


 

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