SWANSEA — A three-member electoral board ruled Friday that four trustee candidates could remain on the April 9 Consolidation Election ballot following challenges to their candidacies.
The objections were filed by Swansea resident Donna Koudelka to petitions submitted by Katherine Ruocco, Scott Ross, Bill Phillips and Jeffrey King.
Koudelka objected to all four candidates because they did not specify whether they were running for a two- or four-year trustee position on their petitions. All four are running for a four-year trustee seat.
Each objection case was handled individually by the electoral board during a two-hour hearing at the Swansea Government Center.
Ruocco's case was discussed first based on the fact she filed a written motion to strike the objector's petition. Ruocco, a licensed attorney, said Koudelka's petition does not meet the statutory petition requirement.
Ruocco said all four objections Koudelka presented to Interim Village Administrator Craig Coughlin were listed on the same document, which listed the candidate's name followed by her objection to their nominating petition.
Coughlin, who Ruocco called as a witness during the hearing, said he provided blank objector's petition forms, which he filled out based on the information Koudelka provided to him initially. Coughlin then had Koudelka sign the objector's petition forms.
Ruocco said she objected to Koudelka's objector's petition form because it was not provided by her.
"The state under the Election Code does not allow any amendments to the objector's petition," Ruocco said.
She explained the initial document provided by Koudelka should legally be considered her objection petition, and the electoral board should exclude the form provided and filled out by Coughlin. Koudelka's initial objection document did not include her full name or address as required by state law, according to Ruocco.
The electoral board granted Ruocco's motion, striking the objector's petition and solidifying Ruocco as a trustee candidate in the April election.
Following Ruocco's lead, Ross, Phillips and King all filed oral motions to strike the objector's petition, which were all granted unanimously by the electoral board. All will appear on the ballot in April.
After the hearing, all four trustee candidates said they were pleased with the outcome. Koudelka said she had no comment.
"Although I'm very appreciative of Ms. Koudelka's interest in the electoral process, it's disappointing our village had to spend so much time, money and resources in jurisdiction of a petition that had no legal merit," Ruocco said. "I'm very pleased they made the decision they did based on the law."
"It's regrettable it's an argument of technicalities between two factions," said Phillips, who is an assistant attorney general. "It's not without irony an objection to a technicality of a petition is technically not compliant."
The village's electoral board was composed of Mayor Jim Rauckman as chairman with Village Clerk Lauren O'Neill and Trustee Dave Thacker serving on the board. The village's attorney John Kurowski with Kurowski Shultz, LLC was also in attendance at Friday's hearing.
If Koudelka isn't satisfied with the village's electoral board's decision, she can file a petition for judicial review with the St. Clair County Circuit Clerk. This petition must be filed within five days of the board's decision.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.