Deciding that the electoral board would not be comfortable in deciding whether or not a candidate could serve on both a elementary school board and community college board because the boards were incompatible led to the decision that incumbent Tom Cunningham will remain on the ballot April 9 in the Orland School District 135 Board of Education race.
Fellow Orland School District 135 Board of Education candidate and local attorney Michael Carroll filed an objection Friday, Jan. 4, citing that Cunningham filed for both the Orland 135 board and the Moraine Valley Community College District 524 Board of Trustees, and that the offices are incompatible.
At a hearing Tuesday, Jan. 15, the electoral board — which consisted of 135 board members John Carmody, Tina Zekich and Lynne Donegan — heard both Carroll and Cunningham's attorney, Dennis Brennan, present their case.
While Brennan filed a motion immediately to strike and dismiss the case, Orland 135's attorney John Izzo of Sraga Hauser, who ran the hearing, suggested the board listen to the case first.
Carroll, using both rules set forth in the Illinois Election Code and Public Community College Act, said that if a candidate submits a petition for incompatible offices, he must withdraw from the race.
Brennan argued that the code does not apply to nonpartisan offices, using a 1986 case – Velazquez v. Soliz – to back his argument.
Carroll pointed out that two years ago, Cunningham ran for village trustee while still a member of Orland 135's board.
"If Mr. Cunningham ran for school board and trustee, which he did two years ago, incompatibility doesn't seem to be a concern of his, but it is one of mine," he said.
After both sides presented, Izzo told the electoral board that if they believed the Illinois Election Code did apply to this case, then they would need to decide if the offices were incompatible. He did add that he did not think it was the job of the electoral board to rule on that issue of incompatibility.
Carmody and Zekich both said that they felt they could not rule on the incompatibility issue and voted to leave Cunningham on the ballot.
"The people in the community need to decide," Carmody said. "I'm leaving it up to the voters to decide."
Donegan, however, said the opinion of the attorney general's office led her to believe the offices are incompatible and cast the lone dissenting vote.
"It's a publicity stunt designed to get publicity for his own candidacy," Brennan said after the hearing. "What he cited just doesn't apply."
Carroll said he was "disappointed" with the board's decision. He said he will be reviewing his notes and will also be ordering transcripts of the hearing before making a decision to appeal.
Cunningham, who referred all comments to Brennan after the hearing, did answer why he is also running for the Moraine Valley board.
"I graduated from Moraine," he said. "Enough said."
After receiving the decision in writing, Carroll will have up to five days to decide if he wants to appeal the ruling and turn it over to the Cook County Circuit Court.
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