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Lawrence v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

April 9, 2013

BERNADETTE LAWRENCE, Objector-Appellant, Cross-Appellee,
v.
KENNETH WILLIAMS, JUDITH GIBBS, and ANNETTE ODNEAL; EDUCATIONAL OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD OF THORNTON TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT 205, its Members BURT ODELSON, ROBERT K. BUSH, and PAMELA McLEAN MEYERSON; ROSE PAPALEO; and DAVID ORR, Cook County Clerk, Respondents-Appellees, Cross-Appellants.

Held [*]

An appeal from a trial court’s reversal of respondent electoral board’s disqualification of three candidates in a school board election because their nomination papers were not securely bound as required by the Election Code was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, since the electoral board violated the Open Meetings Act by issuing its decisions disqualifying the candidates at a meeting which lacked a quorum and copies of the board’s decision were presented at a subsequent proceeding that lacked a quorum; therefore, in the absence of a final decision, neither the trial court nor the appellate court had any jurisdiction.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 13-COEL-39; Review Hon. Maureen Ward-Kirby, Judge, presiding.

Christopher J. Agrella, of Barrington, for appellant.

Andrew Finko, of Andrew Finko, P.C., of Chicago, for appellees.

Panel JUSTICE HYMAN delivered the opinion of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Neville and Justice Sterba concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

HYMAN, JUSTICE

¶ 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, Burt 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.[1]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, rebinds 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 candidate's 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.

ΒΆ 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 ...


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