Resident makes objections to council referendum
By Hank Beckman For The Sun January 18, 2013 6:00PM
Naperville Mayor George Pradel, listens to Councilman Douglas Krause, respond to objections about his standing on The Naperville Electoral Board on Friday, January 18, 2013, at the Municipal Center in Naperville IL. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:32AM
The Naperville Electoral Board met Friday to hear an objection to the petition proposing that the city keep its council elections an at-large affair.
Objector Paul Sjordal, of Naperville, said he wasn’t involved with the 2010 referendum where voters overwhelmingly voted to move to the new system, but he voted for it and was disappointed when it wasn’t implemented immediately, but rather delayed until the 2015 municipal elections.
“That would give them another election to kill it,” he said of the pending April election that may include the referendum asking voters if they want to get rid of the new district system.
Yes, Elect at Large formed in 2012 to put the question on the ballot that reads, “Shall the city of Naperville elect city council at large instead of part of the councilmen at large and part of the councilmen from districts?”
Sjordal’s objection contains 25 separate items, but before the Electoral Board addressed any of them, his attorney Doug Ibendahl made a series of objections to the process.
First, he objected to City Attorney Margo Ely presiding over the board that consists of Mayor A. George Pradel, City Clerk Pam LaFeber and the most senior member of the City Council, Doug Krause.
Saying that Ely had “a direct role” and that she “cannot be impartial” in the process, Ibendahl presented as evidence emails showing Ely answering legal questions posed by various community members and at least one journalist.
Among the questions asked was the number of votes required to put a petition on the ballot to return to an at-large system, if there was a state statute preventing the return to an at-large system without one election with districts, and whether or not staggered elections would be called for in the event that Yes, Elect at Large’s referendum was successful.
But the Electoral Board unanimously decided to let Ely preside over the process, a vote that was repeated when Ibendahl objected to the makeup of the Electoral Board.
Ibendahl cited the fact that Krause is up for re-election in April, which he said was in direct conflict with Illinois state statutes that prohibited any one standing for election or having a financial interest in a matter from serving on an electoral board.
He also cited a newspaper article quoting Krause as being in opposition to a district system.
But Krause shot back that the first election with the hybrid system wasn’t until 2015 and that no matter how he may have felt about the new system, he voted to implement it once the voters had approved.
“Your objection … doesn’t have any merit,” Krause said.
Ibendahl also said that he had only learned the makeup of the electoral board that morning and that he needed time to prepare for the case, saying the “city lawyer is corresponding with the (petitioner’s) law firm,” and objected to city resources being devoted to what he termed political activity.
“If they have a motion, they should put it in writing,” said Kevin McQuillan, attorney for Yes, Elect at Large.
Ely concurred with McQuillan, telling Ibendahl to put his objection in writing.
The objection stated that the number of petition signatures submitted fell short of both the number mandated by the Illinois Municipal Code (1,680) and the Illinois Election Code (3,758).
While many of the objections were to specific signatures, others related to points of law.
One objection was that the proposed ballot question was “unreasonably vague, non-specific,” while another said it was “insufficient at law because it is subject to more than one interpretation” because the city had never elected part of the council at-large and part from districts.
The board directed opposing counsels to submit these legal arguments no later than Monday.
The city is mandated by state statute to submit its ballot to the election commissions of DuPage and Will counties by Jan. 31, meaning the legal questions and the review of the signatures challenged will have to be accomplished within the next week or so.
“The time frame complicates matters,” Ely said.
During public comment, Tom Glass called the city’s actions “despicable” and accused Ely of providing legal guidance to those who wanted to see the question on the ballot.
Ely responded after the meeting that she had been “totally open” about the issue of election districts and had not at any time taken a position either for or against.
“We’ve done a lot of work on both sides,” she said, going on to note that she had a legal obligation to provide counsel to city officials. “City Council is entitled to legal advice,” she said.
The board approved a schedule that calls for reconvening at 2 p.m. Wednesday to consider the legal issues presented by both sides.
Consideration of the signatures on the petition will be held when the board meets at 2 p.m. Jan. 25.
and 4 p.m. Jan. 26.