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Bernadette Lawrence v. Kenneth Williams

April 9, 2013

BERNADETTE LAWRENCE, OBJECTOR-APPELLANT,
v.
KENNETH WILLIAMS, JUDITH GIBBS, AND ANNETTE ODNEAL, BURT ODELSON, ROBERT K. BUSH, PAMELA MCLEAN
MEYERSON, EDUCATIONAL OFFICERS
ELECTORAL BOARD OF THORNTON TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL DIST. 205, ROSE PAPLEO AND DAVID ORR, COOK COUNTY CLERK, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 13 COEL 39 Honorable Maureen Ward-Kirby, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hyman

JUSTICE HYMAN delivered the opinion of the court.

Presiding Justice Neville and Justice Sterba concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 For the students of Thornton Township High School, this opinion makes possible a little civics lesson. But for the Educational Officers Electoral Board of Thornton Township High School District 205 (electoral board) and other electoral boards, it reveals something else--the ramifications of ignoring the interaction between the Illinois Election Code and the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

¶ 2 The appeal arises from an order of the circuit court reversing decisions by the electoral board disqualifying three candidates from the April 9, 2013, consolidated election ballot. Bernadette Lawrence, in her objections, contended the candidates' nomination papers were not securely bound as required by section 10-4 of the Illinois Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-4 (West 2010)). The electoral board sustained the objections. The affected candidates, having been removed from the ballot, filed a petition for judicial review under section 10-10.1 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-10.1 (West 2010)). The circuit court granted the petition, reversed the electoral board, and ordered the candidates' names placed on the ballot. Lawrence appealed, contending the electoral board's findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence. But, due to the electoral board's failure to abide by the provisions of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120/1, et seq. (West 2010)), we dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

¶ 3 I. Background

¶ 4 Kenneth Williams, Judith Gibbs, and Annette Odneal are candidates for positions on the Thornton Township High School District 205 Board of Education in the April 9, 2013 election. On January 3, 2013, Lawrence filed objections alleging the three candidates' nomination papers were not securely bound as required by section 10-4 of the Election Code. 10 ILCS 5/10-4 (West 2008). The electoral board, which consisted of three public members, Bert Odelson, Pamela Meyerson, and Robert Bush, initially met on January 12, 2013, to adopt procedural rules. A hearing on Lawrence's objections was held on January 28, 2013.*fn1 Rose Papaleo, an administrative assistant to the superintendent and recording secretary of Thornton Township High School District 205, testified that on December 17, 2012, Kenneth Williams submitted nomination papers for the three candidates and none of the papers were bound. Papaleo described the procedure she follows when receiving nomination papers stating she stamps them and provides a receipt to the submitting party. She then removes any binding, scans the papers, re-binds them, and places them in a separate folder to be filed with other nomination papers. Papaleo found no marks or indication of binding on the candidates' nomination papers and she did not alter the papers in any way. Lori Koditek an administrative assistant for District 205, testified she was present when Williams filed the candidates' nomination papers, and concurred with Papaleo that they were not bound.

¶ 5 Each candidates' nomination papers were about 15 to 16 pages long. Kenneth

Williams testified that 5 to 10 minutes before filing the nomination papers, he secured them with a black binder clip and saw Papaleo remove the binder clip to stamp the papers.

¶ 6 Several exhibits were admitted into evidence. The objector submitted the candidates' nomination papers in an unbound condition. The candidates submitted a copy of the nomination papers bound with a black binder clip and an affidavit with three photographs taken before filing of the nomination papers with the black binder clip.

¶ 7 On January 28, the electoral board voted unanimously to sustain Lawrence's objections and declared the three candidates' nomination papers invalid. The board's decisions were announced orally in an open proceeding. The electoral board said it deemed Papaleo and Koditek to be credible witnesses and found the candidates failed to provide sufficient evidence or documentation to rebut their testimony that the nomination papers were not properly bound when submitted. The electoral board then ordered the candidates' names not be printed on the April 9, 2013 ballot.

¶ 8 The electoral board reconvened on February 1, 2013. Electoral board member

Pamela Meyerson took roll call and noted two members of the three-member board, Bert Odelson and Robert Bush, were not present. Meyerson said Odelson and Bush had signed written copies of the decisions made during the January 28 hearing. Meyerson ...


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