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Local

Objection to Sterling school board members' petitions overruled

MORRISON – An objection to two Sterling school board members’ petitions to run in the upcoming election was shot down this morning, allowing them to stay on the ballot – for now.

A three-person electoral board – County Clerk Dana Nelson, Circuit Clerk Sue Costello, and state’s attorney designee Tom Senneff – unanimously overruled an objection filed Dec. 28 by former school board member and current art teacher Gonzalo Reyes, who is running in the April 4 consolidated election. He said incumbents Marc A. Geil and Terry McGuire failed to appropriately fill in blanks on their statements to run, and so they should be removed from the ballot.

Nelson declined to comment on their decision until Senneff completed a report from their 17-minute deliberation.

The three candidates are running for two 4-year seats representing Sterling Township.

Reyes has 5 days to file a petition seeking a circuit court review of the decision; a hearing would have to be held within 30 days of that filing.

“We’re thankful to have the opportunity to stay on the ballot and let the election process work itself out in the public,” said Geil, who represented himself and McGuire, who is out of town for work until tonight.

Reyes’ attorney, William Lee of Morrison-based Ludens, Potter, Melton & Mahaffey, said by not indicating which seat they were running for, and by failing to indicate the official name of the school district, Geil and McGuire created confusion.

“That’s the touchstone, really, for these objections: Is there a basis for confusion? We think so,” Lee said. “We’re left to the county clerk to fill in the blank, to jump the bridge, to fill in the gap. That’s what we’re not supposed to do."

On Jan. 12, when Thursday's hearing was scheduled, the panel permitted McGuire to provide Geil with notes in which he pointed out that he filled out the petition "as accurately as possible" on the advice of the County Clerk’s Office staff and that of Jill Froeter, assistant to school Superintendent Tad Everett.

“Up until this last election cycle, Jill was responsible for receiving and reviewing all board candidacy packets,” Geil read. “She told me it was accurate.”

Geil then pointed out that he filled out the petition the same way he did when he ran for his first two terms, that other candidates for other townships’ seats had completed their paperwork similarly, and that Reyes’ petition, too, had issues – including that his own signature is among those needed to validate his candidacy.

“We’d like to ask the board to either accept or reject all,” Geil said.

In closing, Lee commended Geil and McGuire for the work they've done, but added, 'this is a country of laws, not men, and it’s important the law be followed carefully.”

McGuire took over Reyes' seat in 2011, when Reyes accepted his position as an art teacher.

If he and Reyes wind up serving on the board together, he could get past the legal proceedings, Geil said.

“It might take some time, right? It feels personal,” he said. “But I do appreciate the comments said at the end, understanding my character and who I am as a person."

SEE THE FILINGS

Go to shawurl.com/2z41 to read Gonzalo Reyes' objection to Sterling school board members Terry McGuire and Marc A. Geil's petitions.

Go to shawurl.com/2z42 to read the board members' petitions.

Go to shawurl.com/2z3z and shawurl.com/2z40 to read the state statutes pertaining to petitions stating candidacy for office.

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