Jail bond vote faces another challenge

News-DemocratNovember 26, 2013 

— A second objection has been filed against the petition to place the Madison County Jail bonds on the spring ballot.

Resident Stephen Jellen filed another objection to the petition of approximately 23,000 names that would place the $18 million jail bond issue on the March ballot. The bonds were to pay for a renovation of the 40-year-old jail, replacing electrical and plumbing systems, security doors, installing a sprinkler system and expanding support areas such as the infirmary, kitchen and sallyport.

Jellen filed his first objection last week, expressing concern with the manner in which the signatures were collected. The law states that hearings must occur before the electoral board within five working days.

Jellen's second objection alleged that the people who circulated the petitions did not complete their affidavits as required. The first hearing on that objection is Dec. 2 because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

However, Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons recused himself from the electoral board, informing county Clerk Debra Ming-Mendoza that Jellen's wife works in his department and it would be a conflict of interest for him to hear the objection.

Ming-Mendoza said the next two people in the line of succession for the electoral board are county Treasurer Kurt Prenzler and Sheriff Bob Hertz.

However, Prenzler has been involved in the petition drive and was one of its primary organizers. He said he gathered 1,200 signatures himself. And Hertz is the lead official on the jail renovation project, publicly advocating for its necessity as early as February.

Prenzler said he has been out of town and does not have enough information to decide whether he would recuse himself.

Hertz said as of Tuesday he had not been asked to serve. "In order to give that process the utmost integrity and because I am responsible for the Madison County Jail, I would recuse myself if asked to serve on the electoral board," he said.

If both must recuse themselves, next in line is Madison County Chief Judge David Hylla.

Ming-Mendoza also said Gibbons said he would ask Judge Hylla to appoint a special state's attorney to act as legal counsel to the electoral board because of his conflict of interest.

The next hearing on that objection is Dec. 4, with Ming-Mendoza and Circuit Court Clerk Mark Von Nida in the other two seats on the electoral board.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 239-2507.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 239-2507.

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