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posted: 1/29/2013 6:50 PM

Naperville board upholds referendum question

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Naperville voters once again will have a say regarding the system they use to elect city council members.

The three-member Naperville Electoral Board Tuesday unanimously dismissed a resident's objection to a local group's attempt to ask residents whether they prefer an at-large or ward-based election system.

In 2015, Naperville is scheduled to begin the process of moving to an election district system as a result of a 2010 referendum question organized by the Naperville Voter Education League. Voters overwhelmingly favored the move to a district system at that time, with more than 67 percent of those who cast ballots supporting it.

"Yes At Large," a group of residents unhappy with Naperville's 2015 evolution to an election district system, filed a 2,320-signature petition with the Naperville city clerk in November to place a new referendum question on the April 9 ballot. The proposed question asks "Shall the city of Naperville elect city council at large instead of part of the councilmen at large and part of the councilmen from districts?"

Resident Paul Sjordal filed an objection to the question, calling it "excessively vague and misleading."

Mayor George Pradel, who sits on the electoral board along with Councilman Doug Krause and City Clerk Pam LaFeber, said the objection held no merit.

"We decided it was well-written so that everyone could understand it and it should be on the ballot," Pradel said following Tuesday's decision. "That's it. End of story. So we'll vote on this all over again in April."

Sjordal's attorney, Doug Ibendahl, said he felt the electoral board was unfairly biased against him from the beginning of last week's proceedings, based on a previous referendum case he tried before the board.

"We knew going in that we would have to win this on appeal because there was no way that board was going to side with Doug Ibendahl," he said. "We've got until Monday to file our appeal in DuPage Circuit Court and that's what we're doing."

Not only did the election board not side with Ibendahl, it placed sanctions on him for his behavior.

"We wanted to make it known that the whole board was not pleased with his conduct and it should be noted in the records of the hearing that he acted inappropriately because he did not respect the rulings of the board," Pradel said. "He was disruptive."

Ibendahl called the sanction "utterly ridiculous, petty and meaningless."

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