Roger Wigginton’s recent guest viewpoint seriously undermines his candidacy for 8th Ward alderman in Belleville. In an effort to quickly blast me and the bipartisan Electoral Board for its decision on Alex McHugh, Wigginton didn’t stop long enough to learn even the basic facts concerning the decision. An alderman cannot allow such reactionary behavior to outweigh thoughtful decision-making.
The crux of Wigginton’s “constitutional” attack on the proceeding is that the accusers, never mind the accused, were not informed of state law and procedures for the Electoral Board hearing. Had he taken the time, Wigginton would have learned that all parties received a packet with the state statute and the procedure for the hearing, and that one of the accusers clearly had competent legal assistance in preparing his objection. Wigginton is just plain wrong.
Wigginton argues that I should have instructed the accusers on how to proceed with their objections. But I, as mayor, act as one of the judges, and cannot advise either party on what they would do, even if asked. Wigginton asserts I should have recused myself from the hearing, but under the law, if I tried to recuse myself because I respected McHugh’s mother Mary McHugh, the clerk would likely have refused the recusal as insufficient. The only basis for recusal is if the member’s own papers are questioned in the hearing.
More interesting is Wigginton’s claim that some evidence was rejected at the hearing because it wasn’t certified. I didn’t see Wigginton at the hearing, but maybe he was in the hallway. If he had been listening, he would know that the Electoral Board actually accepted as evidence uncertified documents from the treasurer’s office and considered them in its decision.
One objector testified that after some conversations with the city treasurer, he filed a FOIA request the day of the hearing and received the documents that same day. Neither the treasurer nor the objector could produce the FOIA request. Among the documents produced was personal information of a non-party to the proceedings, clearly not permitted under FOIA. Yet all this evidence was accepted by the board and considered in the decision. These are not uninformed, unassisted citizens as Wigginton seems to imply; they knew where to get information and had all the help they wanted.
Finally, the most disturbing thought promoted by Wigginton is that due process required the city to inform the accusers of this right to counsel. The objectors were trying to take away McHugh’s right to run for office. Due process provides a right of counsel to the accused, not the accuser.
Stripped of its political pretense, Wigginton’s point is that the accusers did a poor job of wrongly contending McHugh was unqualified to run for office. If they had consulted a competent lawyer, in all likelihood they would have been (or were) told not to bring such bogus charges.
After the unanimous decision, Ward 4 residents have greater choice in the upcoming election. Unfortunately for Ward 8, their list of viable candidates just got shorter.