Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division
McSTEPHEN O.A. "MAX" SOLOMON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
MICHAEL SCHOLEFIELD, Objector, EDUCATION OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD, South Suburban Community College of Cook County, FRANK M. ZUCCARELLI, ANOTHONY DEFILIPPO, and TERRY WELLS, in Their Individual Capacities as Members, Defendants-Appellees
As Corrected April 2, 2015.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 15 COEL 37. The Honorable Maureen Ward Kirby, Judge presiding.
McStephen O.A. Solomon, of Hazel Crest, appellant pro se.
Laduzinsky & Associates, P.C., of Chicago (Steven M. Laduzinsky and Aisling S. O'Laoire, of counsel), for appellees.
JUSTICE MASON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Lavin and Justice Hyman concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] Petitioner-appellant, McStephen O.A. " Max" Solomon, appeals an order of the circuit court of Cook County affirming a decision of the Education Officers Electoral Board (Board) invalidating Solomon's nominating papers for the office of trustee of the board of South Suburban Community College of Cook County District 510 (District 510) and removing him from the ballot. The Board invalidated Solomon's petition on two grounds: first, it determined that Solomon was not " qualified for the office" within the meaning of section 10-5 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-5 (West 2012)) (Code); and, second, the Board concluded that the failure of certain circulators to personally appear before the notary public who notarized their signatures on the petition sheets constituted a " pattern of fraud" that required invalidation of all the sheets supporting the petition as well as Solomon's statement of candidacy. We reverse.
[¶3] On December 15, 2014, Solomon filed nomination papers for the office of trustee of District 510, a position on the ballot for the April 7, 2015 consolidated election. Solomon's papers included a statement of candidacy representing that he was " legally
qualified to hold such office" and nine pages of supporting signatures, seven of which were signed by Solomon as the circulator and two that were signed by other individuals. The signatures of the circulators on each petition sheet were notarized by a notary public, Maria Barlow, who swore that the circulators appeared before her on December 15, 2014, and affixed their signatures to the petition sheets.
[¶4] Objector Michael Scholefield filed his objections to Solomon's petition on December 30, 2014. The bases for Scholefield's objections were that (i) Solomon's statement of candidacy was false because at the time he signed it, Solomon was receiving compensation from District 510, which meant that his service as a trustee would not be " without compensation" as required under section 3-7(e) of the Public Community College Act (110 ILCS 805/3-7(e) (West 2012)) and (ii) circulators of Solomon's petition sheets did not personally appear before the notary who notarized their signatures, demonstrating a pattern of fraud and disregard of the Code. Scholefield also raised line-by-line objections to the 119 signatures on the petition sheets. (A records examination later determined that 78 of those signatures were presumptively valid--28 more than the minimum 50 signatures required. No issue is raised on appeal regarding Solomon's compliance with the valid signature requirement.)
[¶5] The Board conducted a hearing on Scholefield's objections. Solomon is an attorney and an adjunct professor who teaches part-time at South Suburban College and who lives in Hazel Crest within District 510's boundaries. He taught and received compensation for the fall 2014 semester and is currently teaching classes during the spring semester. Solomon is also a member of the South Suburban College Adjunct Faculty Association, a union comprised of adjunct faculty at the college.
[¶6] Solomon personally circulated and signed seven of the nine sheets containing signatures supporting his nomination. Two other individuals, Anthony Brown and Gytara Brooks, each circulated and signed one sheet. Barlow is an attorney, a notary public and Solomon's girlfriend. Barlow lives in Chicago and she and Solomon have a law office at 1718 E. 89th Street in Chicago. Solomon signed and Barlow notarized his signature on the petition sheets circulated by him sometime after midnight on December 15 while Solomon and Barlow were at Barlow's residence in Chicago. According to Solomon, the sheets circulated by Brooks and Brown were notarized the day before--Sunday, December 14--at the office. But those two petition sheets likewise bear a notarization date of December 15. Solomon was asked, " And when [Barlow] notarized the petition sheets of Mr. Brown and Ms. Brooks, it's fair to say they were not present, correct?" Solomon replied, " They were because they were notarized the day before at the office." Solomon admitted that Brown and Brooks did not come to Barlow's house in the early morning hours of December 15.
[¶7] Following this testimony, counsel for Scholefield informed the Board that he was " gravely concerned" about proceeding with the hearing and that he interpreted Solomon's testimony as conceding that Barlow notarized the signatures of circulators who were not physically present. Counsel for the Board informed Solomon that " we have an obligation to seriously consider whether or not we should file a complaint with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission" and urged Solomon not to say anything further, informing him of his " right to remain silent."
[¶8] Despite this dire admonition, Solomon proceeded to explain that he ...