Abernathy survives petition hearing
Village trustee candidate Dawn Abernathy (left) helps Village Attorney Chuck Smith organize evidence for a Jan. 8 Municipal Electoral Board hearing in the Mundelein Fire Department boardroom. | Rick Kambic~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 18, 2013 9:53AM
MUNDELEIN — More than a dozen signatures were stricken from her petitions during Tuesday’s electoral board hearing, but village trustee candidate Dawn Abernathy prevailed and will be on the April 9 ballot.
Her victory was narrow. By the end of the hearing, she had 129 valid signatures – the minimum requirement. Other objections to her petitions were dismissed.
The challenger was Mundelein resident Stephen Dee, who said he has no connection to any of the trustee candidates and was merely “raising concerns.” Dee said he has not served on any government committees or run for any office in the past.
The three-person Municipal Electoral Board typically consists of the village president, village clerk and the senior ranking village trustee.
Trustee James Nutschnig is the senior board member, but he was deemed ineligible because of his candidacy in the upcoming election. Trustee Ray Semple is second in seniority but he too is running for re-election.
Mundelein deferred to Lake County on the matter, and Circuit Court Judge Fred Foreman appointed local municipal attorney Scott Puma to the panel. Puma resides in Crystal Lake but has clients in Lake County. He denied any connections to past or present Mundelein officials.
Dee’s initial objections to Abernathy’s petitions involved her failure to indicate whether she was running for a full four-year term or an unexpired term and a failure to indicate what county her petitions were collected in.
Mundelein Village Attorney Charles Marino cited a case from 1998 that said candidates are only required to indicate a full or unexpired term if an unexpired term is available.
Because no unexpired terms will be on the April 9 ballot, Village President Kenneth Kessler, Clerk Esmie Dahlstrom and Puma all voted to overrule the objection.
Marino also advised the board on the county issue, saying no statutes exist that would make the error “fatal.”
Because Abernathy’s petitions were notarized in Mundelein, the board accepted them as valid and overruled Dee’s objection.
Of the 22 contested signatures, Dee said they were either illegible, “suspect” or the individual was not a registered voter.
Abernathy collected 11 affidavits from residents whose signatures were being challenged. She hoped the testimonies would confirm her activities and validate the signatures.
The board accepted some of the affidavits, including individuals who accidently signed their shortened names instead of proper names, but rejected other cases where the petition signatures did not match signatures on voter registration cards.
“People’s signatures can change over the years,” Abernathy told the board. “My signature has changed since I registered to vote at 18-years-old.”
Current Trustees Ed Sullivan and Terri Voss attended the hearing. Before it started, Sullivan told Abernathy that she was “a sure thing.”
After the meeting, Sullivan asked Kessler to research the total expenses from the hearing and report that figure in a public meeting.
The three-member electoral board was expected to approve the written decision Jan. 14. Dee has until Jan. 19 to file for an administrative review with Lake County.