By Bob Balgemann, REPORTER

 Challenges were lodged over signatures on nominating petitions filed by two candidates for seats on the Machesney Park Village Board. There was a lot of debate during the Dec. 9 Electoral Board meeting, even though one of the protests was withdrawn. Candidate Heather Kelley challenged the petition filed by the incumbent District 3 Village Trustee, James Kidd. She withdrew it on Dec. 9, the day of the hearing before a three-member Board. Still, she wanted to have some comments for the record. And, her request to do that was approved by the panel Chairman, Mayor Jerry Bolin.

Here is what she said, according to a transcript of the hearing:

“I would just like to make a statement that I would like to withdraw my objection to James A. Kidd’s petition. However, I would like to state that there was an error, as you know, in the petition as the date passed. And, this was on the Statement of Candidacy form. I would like that publically noted. And, I would also like to note that there is an optional form, the Campaign Affair Practices form that also had a past date noted on it.”

Attorney Rodney Kimes, from the law firm of Bolgrien, Koepke, Kimes and Livingston in Beloit, Wis., represented Trustee Kidd. He objected to those comments being read into the record, and asked that they be stricken. “There’s nothing to be heard,” he said of those comments. “She’s (Kelley) withdrawn the petition … so her comments are … inconsequential and don’t have any need to be put into the record.” Board Chairman Bolin overruled the request, saying, “I believe she has the right to make her comments and make her statement.” Village Clerk Lori Mitchell, one of three members of the Electoral Board and referred to as Judge Mitchell for the proceedings, agreed with the Chairman. But, the third Board member, Judge Robbin Pilcher-Snodgrass, a member of the Village Board, agreed with Attorney Kimes. That left a 2-1 vote to allow Kelley’s comments into the record. Kimes said he might appeal that decision.

A Different Board

The hearing on the petition challenge filed by District 1 Village Board candidate Joe Seipts was heard by a different Board. Trustee Pilcher-Snodgrass stepped down, because the hearing was on her petition, and she was replaced by resident Ike Trickie. Chairman Bolin recused himself because of a possible conflict of interest. Attorney Tom Green, representing the Village, did not go into the reason for the conflict. Bolin then was replaced by Village Trustee Erick Beck, the second most senior member of the Village Board. He wound up chairing the hearing.

After opening remarks by both parties, the Board went over each of the 12 challenges, upholding them and reducing the number of valid signatures to 24. That’s three less than the 27 needed to allow Pilcher-Snodgrass to run in the April 4, 2017, election. In her opening statement, she said, “the three who lived in Village Board District 2 truly did believe that they were in District 1. I did not check them to say, you know, show me your voter’s card. The three people who are not registered voters, again, if they tell you they’re registered, you believe them. You don’t question them. The residents in District 1 deserve a choice. They don’t deserve to be bullied. So, I would ask that you (Board) please just consider the intent and the honesty of the residents of District 1 when you look at this.”

Attorney Calgaro in his opening comments said eight of those signing the nominating petitions lived in District 2, not District 1, while three were not registered to vote. Example No. 12 was a case of the signature on the petition not matching the signature on the voter registration card.

In his closing statement, he said, “…the cards speak for themselves.” Trustee Pilcher-Snodgrass did not say anything else.

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