Scott Erdman, Readith Esther and Doug Ibendahl at yesterday’s Electoral Board hearing. Photo by Michael Romain for the Village Free Press.
Thursday, December 11, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 3:02 PM
The candidates’ attorney files motion to strike and dismiss objection based on a change in state law and finance department letter
MAYWOOD | Formal objections to the candidacies of former Maywood mayor Henderson Yarbrough, sitting Maywood trustee Ron Rivers and sitting District 209 board member Readith Esther—all of whom are running on the same ticket for the three trustee seats that will be contested in next April’s election—were heard yesterday by a three-member Electoral Board.
So far, they are the only candidates for trustee who have faced a challenge this election cycle. All three candidates were challenged by Darius Johnson, whose personal background we don’t know. Johnson objected on the grounds that all three candidates still owe money to the Village of Maywood.
Johnson claims that Yarbrough, Rivers and Esther still owe outstanding debts stemming from travel-related expenses that were incurred while they were village officials. Esther is the former Village Clerk of Maywood, having served from 2005 (when she campaigned on then-mayoral candidate Yarbrough’s Maywood United ticket) to 2009.
Yesterday’s Electoral Board comprised Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Village Clerk Viola Mims and Trustee Audrey Jaycox, whose selection to the board was based on her seniority among sitting trustees.
Scott Erdman, Yarbrough’s attorney, filed a motion to strike Johnson’s objection based on a change in laws and a letter from the Maywood finance department stating that the candidates aren’t in arrears.
“The objector cites Illinois statute that may have been good several years ago, but that had been changed by the legislature in December of 2013,” said Erdman. “There is no longer a statutory bar to candidacy if a candidate owes a debt to a municipality, and even if that were the case, there is no debt to the municipality.”
According to Doug Ibendahl, the attorney for the objector, Yarbrough expended village funds to pay for his wife, Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough, to go on a trip. Ibendahl said that there has been no sufficient evidence to show that the funds were paid back to the village.
Ibendahl also noted that Erdman’s affidavit—which included the letter from the Maywood finance department stating that Yarbrough owed no debts and was the basis of his motion to strike—was introduced the day of the hearing and that he [Ibendahl] had no prior knowledge of it.
The state statute to which Erdman referenced is from 65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5, particularly subsections (b) and (b-5), which read:
“(b) A person is not eligible to take the oath of office for a municipal office if that person is, at the time required for taking the oath of office, in arrears in the payment of a tax or other indebtedness due to the municipality or has been convicted in any court located in the United States of any infamous crime, bribery, perjury, or other felony.
“(b-5) A person is not eligible to hold a municipal office, if that person is, at any time during the term of office, in arrears in the payment of a tax or other indebtedness due to the municipality or has been convicted in any court located in the United States of any infamous crime, bribery, perjury, or other felony.”
Erdman said that prior to July 2013, the statute was written such that electoral boards could rely on it to deny candidates who owed debts to the municipalities in which they were running for office access to the ballot. That’s no longer the case, the attorney argued, which would make a decision by the Maywood Board of Electors to deny the three candidates ballot access very difficult to justify legally.
The change of rules, in addition to the letter from the village’s finance department, were hard for some in the room to swallow.
“This person says there is no debt,” said Mayor Perkins, in reference to Yarbrough’s affidavit. “But yet it’s in the minutes and in the facts that [the debt] was done. This actually happened. That’s the issue I have. This actually transpired.”
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Former Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore, who was in the audience and who many say is the real force behind Johnson’s objection (Ibendahl is Moore’s attorney as well), smarted at what he perceived as the sudden change in state statute. He noted that in last April’s elections, the Yarbrough-led Maywood United Party, through front-persons similar to Johnson, filed objections to the candidacies of people who Moore said owed the village much less than the sums allegedly owed by Yarbrough and his two running mates.
“They owe a lot more money than people they knocked off the ballot last year,” Moore said. “They knocked Joe Ratley [candidate for trustee] off for a parking ticket. They knocked Isiah Brandon [candidate for trustee] off for a parking ticket. Now, if [these people] who run our village owe much more than that—whatever the dollar amount might be—it should apply to elected officials as well. How do they get away with making the taxpayers pay their bills and they don’t pay their bills? Our community will never grow if we keep allowing these things to happen.”
Moore was dissatisfied with the letter issued by the finance department demonstrating that Yarbrough owes no debt, noting that it didn’t go far enough as evidence.
“Show us where he paid it!” he said emphatically. “They’ve got records [i.e., invoices, etc.] of that kind of stuff. But if the finance department allowed them to get away with that, then the person in charge should be relieved of her duties,” he said, referring to department head Lanya Satchell.
“She’s not fulfilling her fiduciary responsibility,” said Moore, who is throwing his support behind a slate that includes Isiah Brandon, former trustee Marcius Scaggs and Moore’s grandson, financial consultant Chase Moore.
Both the Electoral Board and Ibendahl were surprised by Erdman’s motion to strike, in addition to the changed statute and finance department letter on which the motion was based. Ibendahl requested more time to file a written response to the motion. In the intervening period, the Board will have more time to look at the statute more thoroughly.
Ibendahl has until noon on December 15, to file his response to the strike motion. Thereafter, Erdman will have until the end of the business day on Tuesday, December 16, to file a reply to Ibendahl’s response. The Board will reconvene the hearing on December 17 at 2 PM. VFP
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