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Petition challenges won’t be decided today

It will take time to verify signatures, residences, city attorney says

ROCK FALLS – Objections to the candidacies of all three mayoral hopefuls won’t be resolved at today’s special hearing, the city attorney said.

Local businessman Allen Boseneiler is challenging the petitions of incumbent Mayor David Blanton and Bill Wescott, now city clerk, and Boseneiler’s petitions are being challenged by Mark Searing, the city building inspector.

Each objector has the burden of proving that his objection is sound. The objector will be heard first, City Attorney Jim Reese said.

Objections that involve whether signatures are valid and residency issues can’t be determined at the hearing, so the board will assess the evidence and reconvene at the county clerk’s office, where records can be checked, he said.

The county clerk will be asked to determine if the signatures are proper, so a decision on the objections won’t be made today, Reese said. In fact, the final decision must be made in writing and announced in open session at another meeting.

Boseneiler is asking the elections board to verify “proper filing of all documents, including signatures being registered voters in the city of Rock Falls.”

He also wants to verify that petitions “were signed in my presence (of circulator); were signed within 90 days of filing deadline; that residences were correctly stated and that they are originals, not copies.”

Ken Menzel, deputy general counsel for the state Board of Elections, said the objections appear to be “much vaguer than you normally see with regard to objections.”

“If you are challenging signatures, [you would say] ‘Page 4, line 10, not a genuine signature. Page 4, line 14, voter does not live in district,’” he said. There is a “due process interest on part of the candidate knowing particularly what he is going to be called upon to defend.”

In his objection, Searing noted that Boseneiler’s petition sheet “is not totally completed, and the election and election date is missing from each sheet.”

“The extent to which spaces got left blank on a form, the electoral board is going to have to look at a petition in its entirety to see whether it substantially complies with code,” Menzel said. “Leaving out information can be fatal or not, depending on whether it substantially complies with the requirement.”

Under normal circumstances, the city election board would be the mayor, city clerk and the alderman who has served the greatest number of years on the council. In this situation, Blanton and Wescott have an obvious conflict of interest, so Aldermen Glen Kuhlemier and Lee Folsom will serve.

The third person must be a member of the public appointed by the chief judge of the circuit court, Menzel said. For today’s meeting, that will be Pamela Erby.

Reese said he received a call from 14th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Jeffrey O’Connor to discuss whom to select. He gave O’Connor a few names of people who he knew to be interested in city government, he said. The goal was to find someone who would be willing to serve.

“Pam used to be on the City Council,” Reese said. “I know Pam is an intelligent person.”

Reese said his role would be to advise the electoral board as to what the law is. He will not comment specifically on the objections made against the candidates.

The goal is to “make sure everything is fair and impartial,” he said.

To attend

The Rock Falls Board of Elections will meet in special session today to consider objections that have been filed to the petitions of all three mayoral candidates.

The meeting begins at 3 p.m. at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St.

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