If you’ve been trying to keep up with the recent Campton Hills electoral follies then you’re probably just as confused as I am. Here’s the Reader’s Digest condensed version:
It started with semi-outgoing village president, Patsy Smith, taking issue with four council candidates’ nominating petitions. When the post challenge smoke cleared, even though our Gang of Four made the cut, the village hadn’t sent their paperwork to the County Clerk in a timely matter. So when the documents finally did arrive in Building B, Jack Cunningham said it was too late! And when the Gang of Four sued the Clerk to reverse that decision, Judge David Akemann continued the proceedings to Thursday.
Are you still with me? Because he only thing I’m sure about here is there’s been no resolution to this kerfuffle.
And the various newspaper accounts provide absolutely no help in unraveling this sixteen-hour German opera where everyone dies in the end. While it may be true that Campton Hills politicians never make anything easy, I knew this convoluted tale had to harbor an underlying thread of logic.
So I came up with three questions. First, who’s specifically at fault for the late petition submission? Second, if it’s the village, then why is the County Clerk fighting this lawsuit? And third, why wasn’t this resolved at Monday’s hearing?
Armed with those inquiries, I locked the doors, closed the blinds, donned some dark clothing and went into full Woodward and Bernstein mode. A scant ten minutes later I had all the answers which meant I had to unlock the doors, re-open the blinds and change my clothes.
Alright! Get your score cards out.
When interim Village Clerk, John Strauss, failed to certify and submit those petitions before the deadline, he – and the Village of Campton Hills – were utterly at fault. An impending petition challenge has absolutely no bearing on that process because the law clearly states that you’re on the ballot until you’re off!
Thus, a hopeful can submit the most horrifically error ridden nominating petition ever seen, but until and unless someone challenges it, he’s gonna go forward. The law has always leaned towards keeping candidates in the contest.
And the village’s attempt to complain that the clerk had a pre-Christmas family emergency is just another version of “the dog ate my homework” excuse. Quite frankly, I think the real “emergency” was Mayor Smith “encouraging” the clerk to hang onto those documents in an effort to make the Gang of Four as miserable as possible.
So, if the Gang bears no responsibility for this fiasco, why is the County Clerk fighting them in court?
Because he has no choice. In the law’s eyes, even the most magnificent alibi is utterly immaterial. All that matters is the petitions were late. The Second Appellate Court has been very clear on this; the only way any County Clerk can accept tardy petitions is via court order.
Since this seems so cut and dried, why didn’t the court issue the order on Monday?
Because the Gang of Fours’ attorneys failed to subpoena Village Clerk Strauss. And as Judge Akemann so aptly pointed out, how can they prove that Campton Hills was negligent without their sworn testimony? It certainly is comforting to know that some Kane County judges aren’t willing to throw up their hands and simply take an attorney’s word at face value.
When Judge Akemann asked the worthy counselors why they failed to bring the village into the courtroom, they said something to the effect of, “Well…We didn’t want to.” OK! So now the saga will continue on Thursday.
Are you with me so far? If not, to sum it up:
The Village of Campton Hills illegally failed to certify and submit four nominating petitions. But even though they’re to blame, the County Clerk cannot accept overdue petitions without a court order allowing him to do so. And this debacle would already be over if the plaintiffs’ attorneys “invited” the right folks to the first hearing.
As to how this will end, the Gang of Four will finally see their names on the ballot and the Village of Campton Hills will be on the hook for all their legal fees.
Only in Kane County folks!