Attorney: Did city 'overreach'?
ROCK FALLS – An attorney says he is willing to determine whether the city of Rock Falls “overreached” when it removed a local businessman from the mayoral ballot.
Last week, a Whiteside County judge threw out Allen Boseneiler’s appeal of a city Electoral Board decision to remove him from the ballot.
In January, Mark Searing, the city’s building inspector, challenged Boseneiler’s candidacy, contending, among other things, that the candidate hadn’t paid $150 in city fines before he filed. Boseneiler paid those fines a few hours after filing.
In early February, the judge delayed Boseneiler’s hearing in Whiteside County Court because Boseneiler said he needed to get an attorney.
At Friday’s hearing, Boseneiler said he had an attorney but needed to reschedule because the attorney couldn’t make the hearing.
After the hearing, Boseneiler said he had consulted with Freeport attorney Jim Gitz, a former mayor who is running again for the post.
Monday, Gitz confirmed that he had spoken with Boseneiler, calling him a “potential client.” The attorney said he has “dabbled” in election law for years.
He said Boseneiler was concerned with the composition of the Electoral Board, whose members – aldermen Glen Kuhlemier and Lee Folsom and former Alderwoman Pamela Erby – all signed Mayor David Blanton’s election petition.
Such boards often have members with conflicts of interest, which means they may be “stacked” against candidates like Boseneiler, Gitz said. And if a board has a desired outcome, it can ask its attorney to find case law to back its position, he said.
Friday, Judge Bill McNeal dismissed Boseneiler’s appeal because the businessman failed to serve notice about his lawsuit to Electoral Board members, as required by law. However, Boseneiler did notify the board’s attorney.
Gitz said minor errors in such processes often aren’t considered great enough to remove someone from the ballot.
“Courts often talk about erring on the side of ballot access,” the attorney said.
As for Boseneiler’s fines, Gitz said he would look at that issue to determine if the city overreached. He said the fines were paid the same day and that “different schools of thought” exist on whether paying shortly afterward meets the requirement.
He said he would look at the probability of success if Boseneiler appealed the matter and let the businessman know.
“He should understand going in that the mountain he has to climb is pretty high,” Gitz said.
The attorney said he takes a personal interest in election law.
“I don’t have any grievance with the city. I’m not against the mayor or for him,” he said. “Whether someone’s a fantastic candidate or marginal, the public is entitled to all points of view.”
In making his decision, McNeal said he was surprised by the law on the notification requirements. But he said he had to follow the appellate court ruling.
Gitz said he was in court for other cases Friday, so he couldn’t make Boseneiler’s hearing. He said he would have more time in the days ahead.
Blanton is facing City Clerk Bill Wescott in the April 9 mayoral election. Boseneiler said he planned to become a write-in candidate.