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Burke v. Electoral Board of Village of Bradley

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

May 24, 2013

CHARLES "CHUCK" BURKE, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
THE ELECTORAL BOARD OF THE VILLAGE OF BRADLEY, and BRUCE ADAMS, ROBERT REDMOND and GERALD BALTHAZOR, Members, and MICHAEL SMITH, Objector, Respondents-Appellees.

Rule 23 Order filed March 29, 2013

Motion to publish allowed May 24, 2013

Held [*]

The decision of respondent electoral board excluding petitioner from the ballot as a candidate for the office of village clerk was reversed, where the board erred in imputing to petitioner a fine owed to the village by a corporation in which he had an interest and finding that petitioner owed the village for sewer services, since a corporation is separate and distinct from its shareholders and officers and the village had never billed petitioner for the sewer services.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kankakee County, No. 13-MR-67; the Hon. James B. Kinzer, Judge, presiding.

Jennifer J. Sackett Pohlenz, of Clark Hill PC, of Chicago, for appellant.

Paul L. Stephanides, of Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton & Taylor, Ltd., of Mokena, and M. Neal Smith, of Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton & Taylor, Ltd., of Chicago, for appellee Electoral Board of the Village of Bradley.

James R. Rowe, of Law Firm of Rowe & Associates, of Kankakee, for appellee Michael Smith.

Presiding Justice Wright and Justice McDade concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

SCHMIDT JUSTICE

¶ 1 Charles "Chuck" Burke filed nomination papers for the office of village clerk of the Village of Bradley, Illinois, to be elected at the consolidated election to be held on April 9, 2013. Michael Smith filed an objection to those petitions. The Electoral Board of the Village of Bradley (Electoral Board) sustained Smith's objection and ordered that Burke's name shall not be printed on the official ballot. Burke sought review with the circuit court of Kankakee County, which confirmed in part and reversed in part the Electoral Board's decision. Burke appeals, claiming the Electoral Board erred when finding monies due the village from Burke, Montague and Associates, LLC, are attributable to him personally and sufficient to disqualify him from being a candidate. Smith cross-appeals, claiming that the trial court erred in holding that monies due the village by Burke for sewer service are not an arrearage sufficient to disqualify Burke from being a candidate.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On December 20, 2012, Charles "Chuck" Burke filed his statement of candidacy seeking the office of village clerk of the Village of Bradley, Illinois. Burke also filed the necessary petitions for nomination containing the adequate number of voters' signatures in support of his candidacy. Thereafter, on January 2, 2013, Michael Smith wrote a letter to Michael LaGesse, the village clerk for the Village of Bradley. The letter voices Smith's "objection to the nominating petition of Charles Burke." The letter indicates that Smith is a resident of the Village of Bradley and characterizes the "nature" of Smith's objection being "that Charles Burke is in arrears in the payment of a tax or other indebtedness due to the Village of Bradley" in violation of section 3.1-10-5(b) of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(b) (West 2010)). Smith's letter does not identify what debt is owed by candidate Burke to the village, how long Burke has been in arrears, or in what amount Burke is in arrears to the village.

¶ 4 The Electoral Board convened on January 14, January 23, and January 25, 2013, for the purpose of hearing Smith's objections. The Electoral Board consisted of Bruce Adams, Gerald Balthazor and Robert Redmond. Burke filed a motion to remove Adams as a member of the Electoral Board. The motion claims that Adams is the chairman of the Friends of Bruce Adams Political Committee and that Smith's "employer and its affiliates have made significant contributions to" Adams' committee. The motion then details $9, 250 in contributions allegedly made to Adams' committee from entities associated with the objector.

¶ 5 The motion further noted that Burke is the only adversary to current village clerk, Mr. LaGesse, and that hearing officer Adams acted as a circulator for Mr. LaGesse, obtaining 50 signatures in support of LaGesse's candidacy. One of the signatures Adams collected for the petitions of Mr. LaGesse is that of the objector, Michael Smith.

¶ 6 The matter proceeded to a hearing, which took place over three days. The record reflects that member Balthazor of the Electoral Board did not attend the first day of the hearing, January 14, 2013. On that day, counsel for the objector requested the Electoral Board issue a subpoena for "the personal sewer bills from the Village of Bradley" for Burke's residence as well as "any and all business records, business applications, licenses issued to Burke, Montague & Associates."

ΒΆ 7 Burke objected to the request for the subpoena, noting that the objector sought records "from today's date backwards." Burke questioned the relevance of bills, fees, or charges generated after the date he filed his petitions. The Electoral Board ...


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