Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2013, 11:46 pm

Challenges filed against local candidacy

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Staff report

Challenges have been filed to the prospective candidacies of several people seeking offices in Cordova, Colona and Atkinson in this year's municipal elections.

The Atkinson Electoral Board -- City Clerk Brooke Vandersnick and trustees Ryan Rahn and Beth VanVooren -- will meet at 10 a.m. Saturday to hear Trustee Ray Elliott's objection to the mayoral candidacy of Trustee Ken Taber, who wants to run against incumbent August Junior.

Mr. Elliott cited Mr. Taber's connection to The Barn, a restaurant and bar in downtown Atkinson, as the reason for his objection. Mr. Elliott said Mr. Taber should not run as a trustee, "because he has a business with a liquor license, and there is an ordinance that states whether he is directly or indirectly involved with the manufacture, distribution or sale of alcohol, he should not run for office."

Mr. Taber, who said he has served on the Atkinson Village Board "since at least 2003," does not intend to withdraw his petition.

"Everything with the business is in my wife's name, and, technically, I work for her," he said. "No one has ever complained before about this being a conflict of interest."

Mayor Junior also serves on the electoral board, but because he is a candidate for mayor, he said he will not be involved in the decision regarding the objection to Mr. Taber.

Cordova challenges

In Cordova, the electoral board likely is to meet on Tuesday, according to Mayor Robert E. VanHooreweghe, who is a member of the board, along with clerk Sharon Peterson and Trustee Larry Dhooge.

Mayor VanHooreweghe himself filed the objections to be considered by the board.
His letters of protest assert that Peoples Party candidates Denise Womack (clerk) and Alvin Barber, Shannon Craigmiles and Willard Somers (trustees) filed their petitions of candidacy too early, before the Dec. 17 start date specified state law.

In addition, Mr. VanHooreweghe filed a formal protest of the eligibility of candidate James Boone for mayor.

The protest alleges Mr. Boone was in arrears of his utility bill with the municipality when he signed the candidate statement. The Illinois Municipal Handbook states a candidate "must not be in arrears in the payment of any tax or other indebtedness due the municipality" at the time they sign the nomination papers.

In a related matter, three Cordova trustees have sent a letter to the village attorney, Rock Island County clerk, the Rock Island state's attorney and the Illinois State Board of Elections questioning the method and timing of filing petitions for independent candidates.

The essence of the letter is that Mayor VanHooreweghe filed petition papers for himself, three candidates for trustee and one for village clerk as independents. The mayor was the only person able to gain entrance to the village office as it was closed all day because of a family emergency. After arriving at the office shortly before 5 p.m. on Dec. 26, the last filing day, Mr. VanHooreweghe telephoned the village treasurer at her home and requested that she open the office. Michele Chavez, the village treasurer, did so, and accepted the petitions.

The candidates filing as independents include Mr. VanHooreweghe for village president, Carol DeWilfond for village clerk, and Greg Deines, Richard Gaylord and Mike McCullough for trustee. All seats are four-year terms.

It is unclear whether any of the agencies receiving the letter are obligated to take any action on it.

Colona OKs candidate who filed early

In Colona, the electoral board already has ruled a candidate for third-ward alderman can run despite turning in his nominating petitions before the dates outlined by law.

The official filing period for independent candidates was Dec. 17 through Dec. 26.

Matthew Jones turned in his candidacy papers on Nov. 19.

The objection to Mr. Jones' candidacy was filed in Colona by Sena Ropp, who is running against Linda Teichman for city clerk. Ms. Ropp's brother, Larry, is running against Mr. Jones. Her brother, Don, a former alderman, is running for mayor.

As reasons for their 3-0 decision to allow Mr. Jones to run, the Colona Electoral Board -- Mayor Danny McDaniel, City Clerk Linda Teichman and Ald. Larry Swemline -- noted the marquee sign outside city hall stated the clerk was accepting petitions without stating it was the two-party candidates' petitions and not the independents'.

"We find a reasonable person would assume all petitions were being accepted," read the board's statement.

The city clerk admitted she failed to notice the petition was being filed as an independent. Ms. Teichman said she "kind of" noticed Mr. Jones was filing as an independent, but it didn't fully register.

"It's like my first big election. I'm not savvy enough. I chalk it up to inexperience with elections and boy, with all the hubbub, it won't happen again," she said.

Electoral board members said in a statement that not allowing Mr. Jones to run would be a "miscarriage of justice."

Decisions of the village electoral boards can be appealed in circuit court.