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Article updated: 4/6/2011 10:48 PM

Early-morning calls miff Oak Brook candidate

By Josh Stockinger

Oak Brook's newly elected village president says he wasn't responsible for an apparently mass phone call that disturbed voters before 5 a.m. Tuesday and had some of them wagging fingers in his face.

Gopal Lalmalani said at least nine voters complained to him about the call, which went out around 4:30 a.m. and featured a recording of a woman with an Indian accent encouraging residents to vote for him in "broken English."

He said he felt the backlash as he made the rounds to polling places Tuesday before unseating incumbent John Craig.

"People are very upset at me," he said Wednesday. "Two couples actually told me they used to be fond of me and were supporters but unfortunately couldn't vote for me because they were awakened by these calls. Another woman came to me and pointed a finger in my face, saying 'How dare you wake me up at 4:30 in the morning?'"

DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin confirmed his office looked into the situation, but said investigators found no evidence of voter fraud. The investigation since has been closed, he said.

"There's no indication anyone ordered anyone to make those calls, based on what we know," Berlin said.

Lalmalani and Craig squared off in what would become Oak Brook's most hotly contested race after a series of reports drew attention to Craig's multiple public pensions and to Lalmalani's year-old domestic argument that resulted in a police report. Lalmalani said Wednesday he believes the Craig campaign was behind the call -- an accusation Craig flatly denied.

"Why would I call people to tell them to vote for my opponent?" said Craig, who issued a news release congratulating Lalmalani. "It doesn't make sense to me."

Though Lalmalani, 61, ended up defeating Craig, 76, the physician of Indian descent said he now must restore his reputation.

"It doesn't sound like the people in the DuPage State's Attorney's office are interested in doing anything because I won already," he said. "But I don't want people saying, 'Oh, he got elected but he's a scumbag for making calls at 4:30 in the morning.' Whether I won or lost, I would like to get to the bottom of this."

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