Former Island Lake Mayor Charles Amrich's bid to reclaim that post was dealt a potentially fatal blow Tuesday by a Lake County judge.
Amrich was in court to appeal being disqualified from the April 9 ballot by a three-member electoral board. But Judge Margaret Mullen dismissed Amrich's case, siding with opposing attorneys who argued his lawyer didn't properly deliver vital paperwork in the matter.
The move leaves incumbent Mayor Debbie Herrmann as the lone candidate for the post, and it effectively dismantles the slate of candidates Amrich had been leading.
Amrich's lawyer, David McArdle, said Mullen's decision gave his client two options.
"Now we have to live with it or appeal it," McArdle said shortly after Mullen's ruling.
Amrich quickly left the Waukegan courtroom with a throng of supporters, including fellow candidates. Reached by telephone later in the day, he said he hasn't decided how to proceed.
"We're looking at options," Amrich said.
McArdle squared off Tuesday morning against two attorneys. One, Anish Parikh, represented the two activists who sought to knock Amrich off the ballot because of a $174 garbage bill he didn't pay before signing a candidate statement on Dec. 18, 2012.
Amrich settled the debt before submitting his campaign paperwork on Dec. 26, but Parikh argued that was too late.
The other lawyer, Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, represented the electoral board. On Feb. 4, that group of three trustees ruled Amrich's debt made him ineligible to run for municipal office under state law.
In separate but similar arguments, Parikh and Krafthefer urged Mullen to dismiss Amrich's appeal because documents in the case weren't delivered to various people involved in the matter by certified or registered mail, as required by law. They were delivered personally.
McArdle argued personal delivery is acceptable. Mullen disagreed, ending the proceeding after about a half hour of discussion.
"It might seem like personal service is better, but the statute is clear and the (prior) cases are clear," Mullen said.
Neither of Parikh's clients, Louis Sharp and Daniel Field, attended the hearing. Parikh was pleased with the ruling.
"The court got it right," he said.
Once Village Clerk Connie Mascillino submits an amended candidate list to the Lake County and McHenry County clerks' offices, Amrich's name will be struck from the ballot, Lake County Clerk Willard Helander said.
Herrmann wasn't in the courtroom Tuesday. After learning of Mullen's ruling and the reasons behind it, she criticized McArdle's work and expressed sympathy for Amrich.
"I feel for Charlie Amrich, I really do," Herrmann said. "He didn't even have a fair shake."
Amrich called the paperwork delivery snafu an "oversight" by McArdle. If it wasn't the paperwork, the opposing attorneys would have tried to get the case tossed for another reason, he said.
Island Lake's mayor from 1985 to 2005, Amrich had been leading the "For the People" slate. Without a mayoral candidate, the candidates can't run as an official political slate.
They can continue to pool efforts, however.
The other "For the People" members are clerk hopeful Teresa Ponio and trustee candidates Mark Beeson, Tony Sciarrone and Keith Johns.
Ponio was in court Tuesday for the hearing. In a telephone interview afterward, she called her political opponents' efforts to remove Amrich from the ballot "appalling."
Trustee Shannon Fox, who led the electoral board that ruled Amrich ineligible, also was in the gallery Tuesday. Although happy the board's ruling was allowed to stand, she was disappointed the court didn't rule on the actual appeal.
The arguments Krafthefer planned to put forth were "valid and strong," Fox said.
Herrmann, the town's mayor since 2009, leads the "United for Progress" slate. She's joined by Mascillino and first-time trustee candidates Josh Rohde, Ken Nitz and Ed McGinty.