Evanston’s Local Election Board, on Dec. 16, heard further arguments in a dispute over petitions filed by candidates in Evanston’s upcoming mayoral elections, but the proceedings were delayed until the morning of Dec. 19 after City Clerk Rodney Greene, a member of the Board, became ill during the session.
Two panels had been deliberating over objections to three candidates for mayor and one for city clerk. The first panel, composed of Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, Alderman Ann Rainey (8th Ward), and Mr. Greene, is hearing objections filed in the mayoral race, while a second panel addressed a dispute over filings in the election of city clerk. That panel is composed of Ms. Tisdahl, Ms. Rainey and Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd Ward).
The objections in the mayoral race largely resulted from disputes centered around whether the candidates’ nominating petitions must say they are seeking to be on the ballot in the Feb. 28, 2017 Primary Election, or whether it is proper or adequate to say they are seeking to be on the ballot in the Consolidated Election on April 4, 2017 or on the ballot for the primary, but mistakenly say the primary would be on April 4.
Evanston resident William Arndt, who contributed to the campaign of mayoral candidate Brian Miller, initially filed objections to the nominating petitions filed by three other candidates—Ald. Mark Tendam (6th), Gary Gaspard, and Steve Hagerty—on the grounds that their nominating petitions allegedly fail to specify that the candidates are seeking to run in the Feb. 28, 2017 Consolidated Primary.
Attorneys for Mr. Arndt, on Dec. 16, said they were withdrawing the objection to Mr. Tendam’s candidacy. In the previous hearing on the matter, on Dec. 12, Mr. Tendam said that his petitions ask that he be put on the ballot as a candidate for mayor “at the Consolidated Primary election to be held on February 28, 2017, provided if no primary election is required, the candidate’s name will appear on the Consolidated Election for election to said office and term.” An attorney for Mr. Tendam represented him at the Dec. 16 meeting.
A new dispute that has arisen in these proceedings centers around a 1992 referendum put on the ballot by Evanston's City Council that provides that a primary election must be held for mayoral elections if more than two candidates are running for mayor. That referendum passed when it was placed on the general election ballot in 1992. This year Mr. Greene has said that he had no knowledge of a referendum, and he has cited a State statute that provides a primary election would be held only if more than four candidates were running for the same office.
Both Mr. Gaspard and Mr. Hagerty’s attorney argued they had no way of knowing whether there would be a primary or not, and that their nominating petitions were submitted in good faith.
City Corporate Attorney Grant Farrar urged the Electoral Board not to allow Mr. Arndt’s attorneys request to enter evidence regarding the 1992 referendum at the hearing, aying that such evidence would have to be preceded by a subpoena and that it was not part of the initial objections. Mr. Arndt's attorneys outlined their argument however, that Mr. Gaspard and Mr. Hagerty had essentially not filed to run in the election for mayor by allegedly not filing to run in the primary, which they said was a prerequisite to running in the general election.
At one point, Mr. Greene said that he wanted to play a voicemail message he had received in late November. Mr. Arndt’s attorneys objected, saying the message essentially amounted to new evidence, which Mr. Farrar had previously urged the Electoral Board to disallow. Mr. Arndt's attorneys also repeatedly asked if Mr. Greene, one of the three judges on the Election Board panel, was seeking to introduce evidence. Mr. Farrar let the recording be played, but said the Board should not let its content influence their decision. There was no means to amplify the playback, but Mr. Greene suggested the message was from Mr. Miller.
Ald. Rainey asked the court reporter to type the entire message into the record.
Mr. Greene became ill as James Nally, Mr. Hagerty’s attorney was making a closing argument. Board members said the rest of the meeting would then be delayed until 9 a.m. on Dec. 19.