Tag: Readith Ester

Maywood Mayor Decries Petition Challenge As Opponents Say She’s Making Things Too Personal

Mayor Perkins speak

Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins. | File

Friday, February 3, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

After surviving an objection to her nominating papers — which entailed an undisclosed amount of legal fees and several days spent knocking on doors and pounding the pavement — Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins is blasting a recent challenge that was brought against her candidacy.

She says it reflects a wider objection process that is undemocratic — a claim that some opponents of the mayor say is unfair and hypocritical.

“The reason why people who need to be out here running for office will not get out here is because of the hell they have to go through to do it,” Perkins said during an interview last month. “That’s why more people don’t get involved. Every citizen has a right to run. You should not be denied that right.”

Perkins had just survived an objection brought against her nominating papers by Maywood resident Reginald Lamont Featherston, Sr., who challenged the validity of many of Perkins’s petition signatures.

After the objection was heard last month, the local electoral board ordered that Perkins’ papers be subject to a binder check, a process by which a candidate’s petition signatures are scrutinized to make sure that the signatures are valid (i.e., the signatures match those of the people who signed, the signers are residents of Maywood, etc.).

A Cook County election official ruled that Perkins had exceeded the minimum number of 124 valid signatures required to be on the ballot, but Featherston essentially appealed the official’s decision.

“When the [binder check] was done, it showed that the mayor was six signatures ahead, above the minimum she needed,” said Doug Ibendahl, Perkins’s attorney. “So, the rules say that within 24 hours, you can file what’s called a Rule 8 motion and either side can point out, line-by-line, the rulings they disagree with. The objector checked around 20 signatures he disagreed with.”

Ibendahl said that, even though the mayor came out ahead during the binder check, he didn’t want her taking any chances. So, on his advice, she bundled up, (clip board in hand and accompanied by a notary public), and sought out 30 affidavits, basically signatures she’d already gotten, just in case any of her surplus signatures were successfully invalidated during the next hearing.

It turned out, however, that the additional affidavits weren’t needed at the next hearing, since Featherston’s attorney didn’t show up with  affidavits of his own proving that any of the mayor’s challenged signatures were invalid.

“In the end, she didn’t need the 30 affidavits, but she didn’t waste her time, because she went out and was able to see her voters again and reconnect with them,” Ibendahl said.

Ibendahl explained that the Rule 8 motion is pretty standard procedure and is utilized all over the state. It’s basically an internal appeals process at the electoral board level that objectors and candidates can use just in case the county electoral official is wrong about the binder check.

But in the mayor’s case, Ibendahl and Perkins said, the motion seemed like a desperate, and sloppy, attempt to simply remove her from the ballot. They pointed out that among the few dozen signatures that were challenged as part of the Rule 8 motion was that of Featherston himself.

Mayor Perkins argued that Featherston’s employment and legal representation point to the possibility that he was just a front person for some of her opponents in the race.

“The young man is trying to keep his job,” said Perkins, referencing Featherston, who she believes only lent his name to an objection that was really the work of the Maywood United Party. “I saw the young man and I talked to him, hugged him and wished him well. He’s a young, black man and I advocate for young, black men.”

Featherston is a Proviso Township employee. His supervisor is Readith Ester, who is running for village clerk with the Maywood United Party.

The party’s ticket also includes Trustee Henderson Yarbrough as its mayoral candidate. Former trustee Audrey Jaycox, local businessman Antonio Sanchez and Maywood Board of Fire and Police Commission Chairman Emanuel Wilder are its three trustee candidates.

Featherston’s attorney, James P. Nally, said that he has represented Maywood United Party candidates in the past, but that he also represents “dozens of candidates throughout Cook County.”

In an interview last week, Ester confirmed that Featherston works under her, but added that she didn’t know anything about his objection and didn’t ask him to make the challenge.

“I had no knowledge who was going to challenge the opposition,” she said. “I had no input in it. As a matter of fact, I didn’t find out any of that until after the fact. I didn’t ask him to do anything. I don’t do that. I never have. Not one of my employees can come and say, ‘She asked me [to do anything political].’”

“The mayor is making assumptions on her part,” said Jaycox. “If she doesn’t know him, then how could she make that claim? What any individual decides to do, that’s on them. You can say all kinds of stuff, but you have to be able to validate and substantiate those claims.”

Ester said that Perkins’s criticisms of the objection process are undercut by her actions, adding that the mayor was behind an objection to Yarbrough’s candidacy filed by Maywood resident Linda Reedy, which was the first objection of the campaign season.

“The mayor is playing the same games and that undermines her credibility,” Ester said. “The objections started out from her. We hadn’t even done anything at that point.”

Perkins, however, said that she only supported Reedy’s objection in principal, adding that she didn’t lend any financial or material support to the objection. Moreover, Reedy, the mayor said, was present at the public hearings regarding the objection — unlike Featherston.

Perkins added that Reedy’s objection wasn’t frivolous and that Reedy isn’t an employee of hers.

“If people have legitimate reasons to challenge, they have a right to do so,” said Perkins. “Linda is a concerned citizen. Featherston never even came to a single hearing.”

Ibendahl said that objectors rarely appear at electoral board hearings and that their appearance isn’t required by law.

“In all of my 16 years of doing objections, I don’t think I’ve ever showed up to a hearing and actually met the objector,” he said. “That’s perfectly legal under our law. People don’t have to be there. Neither do the candidates.”

In December, Reedy filed an objection against Yarbrough on the grounds that his petition signatures were invalid because the date at the top of the petition sheets listed the Feb. 28, 2017 primary election, instead of the April 4, 2017 municipal election.

“The elections for the mayor and trustees have always been in April,” Reedy said in a phone interview at the time. “I think that’s a misrepresentation.”

In an interview Friday, Reedy said that she eventually dropped the objection after talking with a Cook County election official, who told her that the addition of the date was not outside of the state’s electoral laws. She also denied that Perkins, who she intends to vote for in April, had anything to do with her objection.

“I’ve never had a conversation with Readith about my objection, so I don’t see where she is getting that from. Mayor Perkins had absolutely nothing to do with my objection,” said Reedy, who admitted that she’s a vocal opponent of the Maywood United Party.

“I think Mayor Perkins has a vision for Maywood,” Reedy said. “I think the Maywood United Party also has a vision for Maywood, but it is not the one we need.”

In a phone interview earlier this month, Nally said that Featherston’s objections, which he lodged against at least a dozen other candidates, were “filed in compliance with Illinois law” and that “they were well-founded.”

For instance, Featherstone’s objections to the nominating papers of mayoral candidates Kathy Travis, Quincy Johnson and Luther Spence were all upheld by the local electoral board that Perkins sat on, with the mayor voting favorably for several of Featherston’s objections.

Nally also pointed out that many of Perkins’s signatures that were challenged by Featherston were struck during the binder check, indicating that the challenges weren’t as frivolous as Perkins is claiming.

“She remained on the ballot, but only by six signatures,” Nally said. “Over 70 of them were stricken as invalid.”

Ibendahl and Perkins said that, regardless of the particulars of the Featherston case, the objection process needs to be reformed.

“The way it is now, it’s sort of like open season,” Ibendahl said, before cautioning that he was referencing the objection process in the Chicago area, in general, and not any particular case.

He said he has no knowledge of Featherston, or whether or not any other candidate or political entity was behind his objection. Featherston couldn’t be reached for comment before this story went to press.

“Every objector states the same language, that they’re filing the objection because they have an interest in the honest operation of our election,” Ibendahl said. “That’s so bogus. That’s not why 95 percent of the objections are filed. Most are filed to remove competition short of the ballot box, basically to short-circuit the electoral process.

“People can throw everything at the wall and make all kinds of allegations and there’s no sanction for doing so other than losing the objection,” he said. “I won’t cast any aspersions on Featherston, because I don’t know the facts, but a lot of objections are filed by people who are getting reimbursed by [political entities or candidates] or are doing it as a favor in hopes of getting something in return in the future.”

Ibendahl noted that the state legislature should consider enacting laws that make it tougher for people to file frivolous challenges for the purpose of short-circuiting the electoral system. Perkins agreed.

For instance, the attorney said, prospective objectors could be required to provide some kind of proof, such as a consistent voting record, demonstrating that they’re filing objections based on a genuine interest in the operation of the local electoral process.

He said that numerous sanctions, such as fines, could accompany losing objections in order to provide disincentives for people who would lodge, or lend their names to, challenges designed to kick candidates off of the ballot, or force opposing candidates to spend time and money on unnecessary legal challenges.

But the odds that state lawmakers would even consider introducing such legislation are long — a point that even Ibendahl conceded.

“[Those laws] won’t see the light of day as long as there are people out there running for office,” said Jaycox. “It’s not like this issue is just a local thing. They’d have to galvanize a whole lot of people, from the local to the federal level, to make some changes. As long as the rules are on the books, people will use them.”

Even former president Barack Obama has benefited from the objection process, as Chicago political commentator Jay Stone pointed out.

“[Obama’s] political career started successfully thanks to the CBOE [Chicago Board of Elections] denying all of his opponents the opportunity to run against him,” Stone stated. “The CBOE declared 4 of the 5 candidates or 80% of the candidates ineligible to compete against Barack Obama for state senator in his first election.”

Jaycox and Ester said that the mayor is turning a routine electoral procedure into something personal.

“How are you going to be opposed to someone else exercising the same right that you [support]?” said Ester. “She always wants to flip the script to sound like she’s the victim.”

“As a public figure, you have to take what’s thrown at you,” said Jaycox. “Politics is tough. You can’t take it personally and maybe that’s what’s happening here. Other people who are challenged take their challenge and go about their business. They fight it and go on.”

Perkins responded by doubling down on her original stance.

“Every citizen has a right to run,” she said. “It shouldn’t be about kicking people off the ballot. The only people who make money are the attorneys and the public needs to know what’s going on.” VFP

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Follow the Money: Village Contractors Donate Thousands to Yarbrough Campaign

money

Thursday, January 28, 2015 || By Michael Romain

According to recent campaign disclosures, the law firm Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins (KTJ), which has been providing ongoing legal consultation to the Village of Maywood for years, donated $2,500 to Friends of Henderson Yarbrough, Sr., in December 2014.

Roy Strom, the waste, excavation and recycling company that has frequently contracted with the Village of Maywood, donated $2,500 to Friends of Henderson Yarbrough, Sr., earlier this month.

Edwin Hancock Engineering, another firm that has frequently contracted with the Village of Maywood, also donated $2,500 to Friends of Henderson Yarbrough, Sr., earlier this month.

Henderson Yarbrough, Sr., became Mayor of Maywood in large part due to campaign donations from KTJ, Roy Strom, Hancock and the like — companies that contract services for the village. Those companies donated thousands to his successful mayoral campaigns in the past. Now, he and his ticket mates Ron Rivers and Readith Ester are recycling those donors in the hopes that the money can win them the three trustee seats being contested in the upcoming April 7, election.

It appears that the three-person Maywood United ticket Yarbrough shares with Rivers, the sitting trustee who is defending his seat, and Ester, the outgoing D209 school board member, is solely utilizing the political action committee Friends of Henderson Yarbrough to fund its race.

Maywood United, the PAC that was active in the run-up to the April 2013 election, only had $1.85 in available funds at the close of the D-2 quarterly reporting period, which ran between Oct. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2014, and has been largely inactive.

On the contrary, Friends of Henderson Yarbrough reported more than $6,000 in individual contributions during the D-2 quarterly reporting period, with more than half of that coming from the candidates themselves–$1,550 from Ester, $1,500  from Yarbrough and $300 from Rivers.

As for the company donations, they aren’t illegal. But there’ a lot riding on this election from the standpoint of these companies. For instance, the village paid KTJ a legal services retainer of more than $42,000 for the month of October 2014 alone (PDF: KTJ I and KTJ II).

There are two people on this current board — Mayor Edwenna Perkins and Trustee Cheryl Ealey-Cross — who would love to show KTJ the door. The only thing preventing this unceremonious exit is a majority of trustees who would like to keep the firm’s services. If three trustee candidates sympathetic to Perkins’s wishes happen to win–that could likely spell the end to $42,000-plus monthly payments for the firm.

The same logic applies to Roy Strom and Hancock, the latter to which the village agreed to pay more than $24,000 in Feb. 2014, for construction design and engineering services as part of a sewer main extension project that was projected to cost a total of $175,000 (PDF: Roy Strom Agreement). As with KTJ, a pro-Perkins majority could conceivably block this stream of contracts.

It is in this context that the firms’ campaign contributions appear inappropriate. VFP

Two More Maywood Trustee Candidates Challenged; Three Challenged in School D89 and D209 Races

Isiah Brandon speaksscaggs

Tuesday, January 6, 2015 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 3:27 AM

Two more candidates vying to fill the three contested seats on the Maywood Board of Trustee are facing challenges to their campaigns.

Isiah Brandon (pictured above left) and Marcius Scaggs (above right), both of whom are running on a three-person slate that also includes Chase Moore, were challenged by Atrayule Perkins, a resident of Maywood. Both candidates strongly suspect the Perkins challenge to be the workings of their main opposition — the three-person ticket comprising former Maywood mayor Henderson Yarbrough, Sr., outgoing District 209 Board member Readith Ester and sitting trustee Ron Rivers.

The candidacies of all three of those individuals were unsuccessfully challenged last month by Darius Johnson, who may have been recruited by former Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore, the main force behind the Brandon, Scaggs and Moore ticket–Chase Moore is the former Recorder’s grandson.

Whereas Yarbrough, Henderson and Rivers were all challenged based on the claim that they each owed outstanding debts to the village; Brandon and Scaggs were both challenged based on the claim that neither lives at the residency at which he is required to vote. In addition, the challenger also claims that Brandon turned in an excessive number of petition signatures.

Brandon, who said he collected between 500 and 600 signatures, noted that, based on what he read in the election code, he wasn’t aware that there was a maximum number of signatures candidates could collect. He said he only knew about the minimum.

For his part, Scaggs said he was confident that he and Brandon would survive the challenge, insisting that he’s lived at the same house for at least the past three elections.

“I knew this was coming, but I’m confident we’ll be okay,” Scaggs said.

The local electoral board hearing for both Scaggs and Brandon is scheduled for Wednesday, January 7, 2 PM, at Village Chambers, 125 S. 5th Avenue, Maywood, IL.

 Two challenged in D89 race

Two candidates running for District 89 School Board — Rolando Villegas of Melrose Park and Damien Harvey of Maywood — both face challenges filed by Carlos Esteban Rojas of Melrose Park. Villegas is said to have been recruited to run by District 209 Board member Theresa Kelly, who herself is running with a slate that includes Forest Parkers Nathan Wagner and Claudia Medina. Rojas, according to a source, may have once been employed by the Village of Melrose Park and may be connected to incumbents on the District 89 Board who are allied with Melrose Park Mayor Ronald Serpico.

Rojas claims that the nomination papers of both Villegas and Harvey contain “the names of persons, as petitioners, who are not duly registered as voters at the addresses shown opposite their respective names,” according to the case file; contain illegible or incomplete addresses; and contain less than the minimum of 50 validly “collected and presented signatures of qualified and duly registered legal voters” of District 89, among other claims.

Villegas and Harvey both have hearings scheduled for January 7, 12 PM, at the Cook County Board of Elections, 69 W. Washington.

One challenged in D209 Race

By Nick Samuel & Jean Lotus, Editor|| Forest Park Review || Originally Published: 1/5/15

A Maywood resident challenged the nominating papers of Cheryl Anderson, a candidate in the Proviso Township High School District 209 school board race. Antoinette Gray, an insurance agent and failed candidate for 7th District State Rep. asserted Anderson neglected to submit a statement of economic interest.

The Cook County Electoral Board will hold a hearing on the candidate challenge on Wednesday, Jan. 7 at the County Clerk’s Office.

Gray herself was thrown off the ballot in the 2014 primary race for 7th Dist. State Rep after the electoral board hearing officer ruled she had not established official residency in the 7th District two years prior to filing for candidacy. Gray was not available at press time for comment on the challenge.

Anderson is a Melrose Park Library trustee and former juvenile protection officer. She was recognized by Judge Stuart Paul Katz in 2010 for sending the most kids to college while working as a juvenile protection officer in Englewood.

Anderson, of Melrose Park, currently serves as a substitute teacher for Oak Park Elementary School District 97 and School District 89, which includes Maywood, Melrose Park and Broadview.

Before the challenge, Anderson said her campaign focus would be vocational training programs in D209 schools. She said unemployed craftsmen can be paid to teach a skill or trade at the schools.

“We would be giving employment to unemployed people to teach a group of people a skill,” Anderson said.

If she stays on the ballot and is elected, Anderson said she would reach out to all of the mayors in the district’s ten villages and most of the pastors in the community to brainstorm solutions for students in D209 to become successful.

She also said she wants more focus on the students and less attention on big employee salaries.

“If you’re ok with the current educational status of kids in D209 then maybe you shouldn’t be in office. It’s time for a change,” Anderson said in December. “We have to get past the barriers of why kids don’t want to come to school anymore. Our schools in D209 shouldn’t be an automatic feeding system to our jails.”

The candidate said she previously lived in Oak Park for 20 years and that the values in the educational system there aren’t the same as it is in Maywood.

Anderson said her campaign was a family affair. She and her two sons, Khirey and Jelani Floyd, have all performed substitute teaching at Proviso East High School. Both sons aspire to become attorneys, with Khirey finishing a first year at Chicago Kent School of Law.

“We’ve got to do better and make having set goals popular in the community. It’s not right because you grew up in Maywood that your chances to be successful isn’t as high as anyone else,” said Khirey, who graduated from Oak Park River Forest High School in 2008. “I can’t forget where I came from. We’re really a community and a family. We have to help each other out; that’s what is most important.”

Anderson did not return calls, texts or emails for comment. VFP

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