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Article updated: 8/14/2012 10:53 PM

Island Lake referendum effort could be derailed by fraud allegations

By Russell Lissau

An Island Lake resident whose firm has worked for the town is trying to derail a grass-roots effort to ask voters about a controversial village-hall construction plan.

In his formal objection, resident Daniel Field claims the petition that activists submitted last week doesn't contain the minimum number of legal signatures needed to put an advisory referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Field also accused petition circulators of fraud by allowing unregistered voters to sign the petition, among other allegations.

Field, who co-owns a company that has been doing computer-related work at village hall, submitted the objection Monday, records obtained by the Daily Herald indicate.

Mark Beeson, an Island Lake resident who headed the petition drive, was among the people targeted in Field's complaint. Beeson called the allegations false and said he will contest the objection.

"These are real signatures," said Beeson, who plans to run for trustee in 2013.

The town's electoral board will review Field's complaint at 11 a.m. Friday at village hall. A decision on the referendum's fate likely won't be made that day, said Mayor Debbie Herrmann, who leads the electoral board when it's needed.

Herrmann expects officials to decide the matter later in the month.

Beeson organized the petition drive because of concerns about village officials' plans to build a new municipal facility in Water Tower Park. The building could also include a police station, community center and other facilities.

One option calls for an independent developer to build and own the facility and then lease it to the village. The village eventually could buy it.

A timeline has not been set for the project, nor has a budget been publicized.

The proposed referendum would ask voters if the village should undertake the effort. It would not be legally binding.

Beeson and six other volunteers -- including Trustee Laurie Rabattini, ex-Mayor Charles Amrich and former police Chief Tony Sciarrone -- gathered an estimated 340 signatures, more than the minimum needed to accomplish the task.

Field's objection seeks to disqualify entire pages of signatures because of various alleged irregularities, which could keep the question off the ballot.

Amrich defended his petition pages. He said the signatures he gathered belong to his neighbors, and he saw them sign the paperwork.

Amrich called the challenge "an attempt to not let the people of Island Lake have a say-so in this procedure."

Former Trustee Sally Fleissner also collected signatures and was named in the objection. She said she expected such a move.

Like Amrich, Fleissner defended the signatures on her sheets, saying they belong to neighbors and longtime friends and aren't fraudulent.

Sciarrone hadn't seen the objection as of Tuesday afternoon but said the petitioners had no reason to fake signatures.

The other volunteers named in the objection are former trustee candidate Joe Ptak and resident Ed Reilly. Neither they nor Rabattini could be reached for comment.

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