Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division
ERIK L. DANIEL, Petitioner-Appellant,
JOHN A. DALY, Candidate, EDUCATION OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD, South Suburban Community College of Cook County, FRANK M. ZUCCARELLI, ANTHONY DeFILIPPO, and TERRY WELLS, in Their Individual Capacities as Members, MARTIN LAREAU, in His Capacity as District Board Secretary, STANLEY T. KUSPER, Jr., in His Capacity as District Board Attorney, Respondents-Appellees
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. 15 COEL 26. Honorable James A. Zafiratos, Judge Presiding.
For PETITIONER-APPELLANT: McStephen O.A. Solomon, McStephen O.A. Solomon, Hazel Crest, Illinois.
For RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES: Steven M. Laduzinsky, Aisling S. O'Laoire, Chicago, Illinois.
JUSTICE PIERCE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Connors and Reyes concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] Erik L. Daniel filed objections to the nomination papers of John A. Daly, candidate for the office of trustee of the board of South Suburban Community College of Cook County District 510. After hearing, the Education Officers Electoral Board (Board) dismissed petitioner's " Objector's Petition." Petitioner sought review in the circuit court of Cook County, which affirmed the Board's decision. Thereafter, petitioner timely filed this expedited appeal arguing that the Board was not properly constituted when it issued its decision and that the Board's decision is arbitrary and not supported in law. After granting an expedited appeal, we affirmed the Board's order and the judgment of the circuit court by an order entered on March 26, 2015, stating that a written decision would issue at a later date. For the following reasons, we affirm the Board's order dismissing petitioner's objections.
[¶3] On December 11, 2014 respondent, John A. Daly, filed nomination papers seeking to place his name on the April 7, 2015 ballot as a candidate for office of member of the Board of Trustees of the South Suburban Community College of Cook County District 510. These papers included 24 petition sheets containing a total of 262 signatures of individuals supporting Daly's nomination.
[¶4] Petitioner, Erik L. Daniel, filed a " Verified Objector's Petition" objecting to the legal validity of almost all the signatures on Daly's petition sheets. Petitioner alleged that certain identified signators to Daly's petitions are not legal voters registered at the address shown on the petitions, they are not legal voters within the boundaries of the voting district, and 240 of the signatures are not genuine or were otherwise invalid, leaving Daly with 22 valid signatures and below the statutory required minimum of 50 signatures.
[¶5] An initial public hearing was held before the Board on January 8, 2015. Petitioner and Daly were represented at the hearing by their counsel. At the initial hearing, the Board approved its " RULES FOR HEARINGS AND DECISIONS IN CASES OF OBJECTIONS TO NOMINATION PAPERS FOR THE OFFICE OF MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES" pursuant to section 10-10 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-10 (West Supp. 2013). The rules provide that the Board may consider preliminary motions similar to motions to dismiss under section 2-615 and section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619 (West 2012)). The rules further provide that the Board may " require the objector to make a preliminary showing *** that certain of the factual allegations in the objector's petition are pled in good faith based on knowledge, information and/or belief formed after reasonable inquiry." A failure to adhere to the rules constitutes " grounds for striking of some or all of the allegations" or " for dismissal of the objector's petition."
[¶6] Because Daniel's objection assailed almost every signature on Daly's petitions as invalid, and his verified objections stated that " he verily believes the same to be true and correct," Daly's counsel requested petitioner's presence at the next hearing in order to test that verification and question the basis of his knowledge that 240 of the 262 signatures were invalid. The Board explained that, under its rules, which Daniel's counsel was aware of, it was appropriate for the petitioner to attend the next hearing and the Board could compel his attendance through the issuance of a subpoena. Petitioner's counsel agreed to produce petitioner for questioning at the next hearing scheduled for January 17, 2015, in lieu of compelling petitioner's attendance by subpoena. Daly's counsel stated that he would support his oral motion to dismiss with a written motion to dismiss to be filed the next day. At Daly's request, the Board issued a subpoena to the Cook County clerk's office for production of certified documents " relating to or evidencing any individuals accessing or using the computer system containing voter registration and signatures during the period of December 15, 2014 to December 30, 2014."
[¶7] On January 9, 2015, Daly filed a motion to strike and dismiss the objector's petition reasserting his oral argument alleging that the petition was a " bad faith 'shot-gun' objection" to Daly's signed election petitions filed in support of his nomination. He argued that the objections to the signatures were overly broad and that petitioner had not used " any due diligence" and did not " make a good faith inquiry or investigation into the line by line objections" to the petition signatures. For instance, Daly argued that Daniel claimed that signators to the petition were not registered voters and that the same signators had their signatures forged, which is improbable since there would be no registration record to use for a signature comparison. Petitioner denied Daly's allegations.
[¶8] On January 17, 2015, the Board convened to hear arguments on Daly's motion to dismiss. Petitioner did not attend that hearing. Daniel's attorney readily acknowledged that he had previously agreed to produce Daniel at the hearing without the need for a subpoena but stated that Daniel " refused" to attend, he did not have to attend and that he would not attend. The Board expressed its concern over petitioner's failure to appear at the hearing because it had intended to question him about the basis of his objections and the Board had ...