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updated: 3/25/2011 8:28 PM

Tempers flare over Bartlett fire district seat

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  • Martin Wallace

    Martin Wallace

  • Donald Wisniewski

    Donald Wisniewski

  • Kevin Wiley

    Kevin Wiley

  • Patricia Hanson

    Patricia Hanson


Editor's note: Parts of this story ran in Friday's edition, but that story contained several errors of attribution. This is an updated version, with correct attribution.

Tensions between the two candidates for the Cook County seat on the Bartlett Fire Protection District boiled over during a candidates forum Thursday night.

Challenger Martin Wallace argued he should have been allowed to participate fully in the forum, while the fire district board president called into question Wallace's property taxes.

Cook County records show Wallace fell beyond one payment on his home, owing the county $4,128. Wallace acknowledged the missed payment and said payment was made and he is now current.

However, Fire Protection District President Jim McCarthy remained unconvinced. Sitting in the audience on Thursday he yelled that Wallace's taxes remain an issue.

On Friday, McCarthy said he understood the economy makes it difficult for some to pay taxes on time. But he said he can't understand how Wallace can afford to run a campaign when he is in debt.

"As an elected official you set an example to the residents you represent," McCarthy said. "And if you're going to be delinquent in your taxes ongoing, I don't believe that set such a good example."

Wallace said he understands why his opponents bring this up. But he denies any pattern and remains apologetic. He said both he and his wife travel, and their schedule got hectic enough they neglected the bill until it was overdue.

"I can realize the concern, but you should be satisfied by the answer," he said.

One rumor going around suggested that if someone had challenged Wallace's candidacy for the fire board, the unpaid bill would have rendered him ineligible.

However, Illinois election code requires only that a fire protection district trustee candidate be a registered voter. Property tax debt could, however, affect the candidacy of someone running for mayor or village trustee, according to the election law.

The Bartlett fire district board has two seats in play on April 5 -- one elected by DuPage County residents and one elected by Cook County residents. Both seats are for six years.

Donald Wisniewski, the sitting board member who is running for re-election for the Cook County seat against Wallace, declined to discuss Wallace's taxes on Thursday.

He even attempted to extend an olive branch to Wallace during the forum by asking him to introduce himself.

"He should have been up there speaking with us," Wisniewski said on Friday.

Wallace was barred from being on the dais because the organizer, Beth Beckner from the Bartlett Woman's Club, said Wallace failed to call and tell her he wanted to take part.

Wallace denied this and said he will produce phone records that prove he had a conversation with Beckner.

Meanwhile, Wallace was still allowed to participate in the question-and-answer part of the forum, during which he questioned Wisniewski over his 2005 campaign -- when fire district employees were disciplined after it was discovered they used district resources during work time to help Wisniewski's campaign.

Wisniewski countered that three employees were disciplined and that it was only one employee who used a computer to work on a campaign letter.

"That's all that was," he said.

Wisniewski also said that former Fire Protection President John McGuire was behind Wallace's inquiry, as McGuire was part of the board in 2005.

Wallace said he knows McGuire only casually, and later said he didn't know why John McGuire was mentioned.

McGuire, who was present at the forum on Thursday, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Patricia Hanson and Kevin Wiley are vying for the DuPage County seat on the board left open when Art Pierscionek decided not to run.