Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert and Ward 6 Alderman Paul Seibert voted Thursday to remove City Clerk Dallas Cook from the city’s three-member electoral board that was meeting to decide whether treasurer candidate Ryan Moore, who is supported by Cook, should remain on the April 4 ballot to challenge Treasurer Dean Hardt.
Cook, who is running for mayor against Eckert, walked off the dais in the courtroom where the hearing was held and made his way to the seats for the audience when it became clear he was being removed from the board. He called the hearing a “monkey circus.”
“Today was a circus at best. At worst it’s Mark Eckert’s corruption, and I would go with the worst,” Cook said after the hearing.
Dallas wants to plant all kinds of seeds that everybody else is corrupt and wrong except him.
Mayor Mark Eckert
“Well clearly Mark Eckert controls two votes on the electoral board, and so they chose to vote 2-1 to kick me off the board. In my opinion that’s improper,” Cook said after the hearing, which was postponed until Jan. 12, so Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson could name a city official to replace Cook on the electoral board.
In response, Eckert said, “Dallas wants to plant all kinds of seeds that everybody else is corrupt and wrong except him.
“It’s disappointing to see Dallas — the way his actions are, the way he behaves — and then it’s certainly disappointing to hear him right away always wants to blame somebody for corruption,” Eckert said. “I’m sorry. I think he’s very immature in his behavior today. There’s nothing corrupt in anything we’re doing.”
City Attorney Garrett Hoerner, who also serves as the electoral board attorney, said based on a prior court case, Cook cannot serve on the electoral board if Hardt calls him as witness to testify.
Hardt argues that Cook has a “conflict of interest” in Moore’s candidacy because Cook helped collect signatures for Moore’s petition.
Today was a circus at best. At worst it’s Mark Eckert’s corruption, and I would go with the worst.
City Clerk Dallas Cook
Another one of the issues disputed about Moore’s candidacy involves the number of valid signatures that need to be on Moore’s petition.
Moore and Cook said Moore’s petition only needs to have 221 valid signatures, or 5 percent of the voters who participated in the last municipal election in 2015.
But Hoerner said the treasurer’s post was not voted on in 2015, so a candidate needs valid signatures from 5 percent of the voters in the 2013 election, when residents last voted for the treasurer’s position. This would mean Moore would need more than 300 valid signatures.
Moore said even if Hardt’s objections to people who signed Moore’s petition stand, he believes his petition has enough signatures.
“I don’t have a problem with them,” Moore said of the objections. “I am still over the 221 minimum, which would leave me on the ballot,” Moore said.
Moore believes Cook should have been kept on the electoral board.
Hardt filed an objection last month that alleges Moore had submitted more than 90 invalid signatures of people on his petition and failed to file the minimum number of valid signatures to be placed on the April 4 ballot.
Hardt’s objection centered on three complaints: People who signed Moore’s petition are not registered to vote in Belleville, which is a requirement; they are not a registered voter at the address stated as it appears in the county’s voter registration records; or their names do not match the voter certification page in the county’s voter registration records.
Moore submitted about 380 signatures.
Belleville resident Billie King also filed an objection to Moore’s candidacy. King’s objection is scheduled to be heard Jan. 12.
King, like Hardt, alleged that Moore did not gather enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot. King’s objection says Moore needed 328 valid signatures but only had 233.
Hardt was elected in 2013 and is running for re-election.