"Whose side are you on?" looks to be a key question in the race for Lombard village president.
Two opposing factions have emerged among the six trustees on the village board since the death of longtime Village President William J. "Bill" Mueller, and questions have been raised about the allegiance of at least one candidate running for the village's top post.
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The April 9 election pits Trustee Keith Giagnorio against former York Township Trustee Moon Khan and former DuPage County Treasurer John Lotus Novak.
Giagnorio has voted with trustees Greg Gron and Bill Ware, forming one of the camps that developed after Mueller's death, but he says he could unite the board as president.
Khan and Novak say they are independent and would not necessarily side with Giagnorio's group or the other, which includes trustees Peter Breen, Laura Fitzpatrick and Zachary Wilson.
In an endorsement interview with the Daily Herald, Khan said he questions Novak's independence. Khan cited one page of Novak's nominating petitions circulated by Fitzpatrick's husband, Kevin Fitzpatrick, and suggested it means Novak is supported by that group.
"I just want it known," said Khan, 57. "I have to make sure to show who is really independent, and I'm the guy who does not belong to any group."
Novak confirmed that Kevin Fitzpatrick, a Republican precinct committeeman, was one of several people who circulated petitions to help him gain the signatures necessary to be placed on the ballot, but vehemently denied a direct association with either group.
Fitzpatrick said Novak is "the brightest guy in the race," and also confirmed he collected one page of signatures.
"They're precinct committeemen; they're going to support somebody. They're not going to stand on the side," Novak, 71, said about Fitzpatrick and others who gathered signatures for him. "And I'm not going to say 'I don't want your support.'"
Novak said receiving Kevin Fitzpatrick's help with one page of signatures does not mean he sides with the faction including Fitzpatrick's wife.
"You have asked me if I am in the other camp and I have told you no," Novak told Khan during the endorsement interview. "I am telling you I am not."
While Khan and Novak debate their independence, Giagnorio, 51, says he can unite a board divided over who should lead, how each year's budget should be analyzed and how to settle on temporary leadership in the future.
"There was a lack of leadership and there was a division that ended up developing ... There were some disagreements, put it that way," Giagnorio said. "But I believe I'd be able to overcome those."
Giagnorio said he's the best candidate for the job because he saw how Mueller worked and he knows what it takes to lead the Lilac Village.
"With my business, I literally see Lombardians interact with Lombardians every single day," said the owner of Giagnorio's Pizza, which has been in Lombard for 19 years. "I feel I have the pulse of what's going on in the town."
Novak, who served three decades as DuPage County Treasurer, said he's best to lead because he's an independent mind who has the time and energy the position demands.
Khan, who is president of the Asian-American Caucus of DuPage, said he would bring diversity to Lombard's all-white village board. He also said he's running to give back to the community that has afforded his family many opportunities and to stop the "obscene fighting" going on among village board factions.
The candidates are vying for a 4-year term in the April 9 election. They will be limited to serving three consecutive terms at village president after voters approved term limits by a 4-1 ratio in the November general election.