Washington Park working its way out of fiscal abyss
Washington Park Mayor Ann Rodgers will need to run as a write-in candidate in the April 4 election after a judge denied her appeal to be put back on the ballot.
St. Clair County Circuit Judge Heinz Rudolf made the ruling after a hearing Thursday afternoon. He told attorney Eric Evans, who represents Rodgers, that the evidence he presented was not persuasive enough.
It was not immediately clear whether Rodgers plans to appeal. She and her governmental consultant, Ray Coleman, declined comment until after they spoke with their attorney.
Robert Sprague, chief of the county’s Democrats and the lawyer opposing Rodgers’ bid to be on the ballot, said the judge “followed the law.”
“The law is crystal clear,” Sprague said.
Rodgers’ candidacy and her slate of trustee candidates were challenged by resident Mary McKinney, who also is running for trustee. McKinney claimed that Rodgers failed to purchase a wheel tax sticker, making her ineligible to run. She also said the trustee candidates on her ticket failed to declare the seats on the board for which they were running.
Rodgers and her slate were removed from the April 4 ballot by a second village election board, which was convened after Rodgers left a Jan. 4 meeting of the original board, which she chaired. The purpose of Thursday’s hearing was to determine the validity of that second election board, which was set up by Judge Robert Haida.
The second board was created because two of the three members of the original electoral board were disqualified because they were running for mayor. They were Rodgers and Village Clerk Rickie Thomas. The third member was village trustee James Madkins.
Thomas went to Haida to point out that Rodgers could not sit as chairman of the village electoral board that would hear a challenge to her own candidacy. Haida appointed St. Clair County Board member Joan McIntosh, a Washington Park resident, to chair a new board. The others members of that board were Debbie Moore and Clyde “Stonewall” Jackson.
Thursday’s hearing began with a discussion about whether Evans should have been representing Rodgers personally because he is also the village board attorney. representing her with the electoral board when he is the village board attorney. Evans said since he was not representing the election board specifically, there was no conflict of interest.
Evans, who was at the electoral board meeting on Jan. 4 representing Rodgers, said Rodgers left the meeting after disqualified from representing her and not allowed to speak. He argued that the board should have been made up of the mayor, the clerk and the longest tenured trustee, which would have been Madkins. He argued that Haida did not have the legal authority to issue the order that placed Joan McIntosh on the board as chairman.
Rudolf told him Haida did have the authority to appoint McIntosh.
Rudolf noted there was nothing that prevented Rodgers from staying to hear other cases that were before the electoral board. But because she left the meeting, a new board was convened.
Rudolf said Evans should have asked the board what his client was supposed to do after he was disqualified. Rudolf said there was no mention that Rodgers could not have chaired the other hearings that were before the electoral board where she was not a direct participant.
The judge said he was limited to the facts that were contained in the record in making his decision.