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updated: 4/4/2013 11:03 AM

Race for mayor in tiny Mettawa is hot topic in quiet community

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  • Casey Urlacher

      Casey Urlacher

  • Jeffrey Clark

      Jeffrey Clark

 
 

Mettawa is considered a quiet country haven, but political wrangling in the race for mayor rivals that of much larger communities.

The give and take between political newcomer Casey Urlacher and village Trustee Jeff Clark has become a hot topic in the rustic town of about 550 residents, where the average residential lot is five or more acres.

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"It's so unfortunate for a wonderful little village like ours, with such a wonderful spirit, to be bludgeoned with all this misinformation," Clark has said.

"These backdoor politics -- it needs to stop," Urlacher has contended.

Observers say this campaign is as intense as the mayoral race four years ago, one of few contested elections in the village's more than 50-year history. That resulted in a rare tie, with longtime incumbent Barry MacLean and challenger Jess Ray each receiving 143 votes. Ray was declared the winner two weeks later as three late arriving absentee ballots went to him.

Ray isn't seeking re-election, but he is backing Urlacher and is listed as chairman of his campaign organization. Clark has two years left on his term and will retain his trustee seat even if he loses.

While Urlacher and Clark agree on matters such as protecting the rural environment and the village having a municipal facility, issues appear to have taken a back seat to charges and countercharges between the two.

Urlacher has compared some of Clark's actions on the board and during the campaign as akin to "Chicago-style backroom politics" and has gathered copies of records to illustrate his points.

Those include a Clark vote in March 2012 on a $3,250 tree trimming contract that Urlacher contends benefited Clark's stepson, and Clark's signature on a petition opposing a proposed amendment to a special-use permit held by Pegaso Farm LLC.

The proposal by Canopy Tree Specialists was the low responsible bid, according to meeting minutes. Clark said it represented "an absolutely arms length transaction" and that he recused himself when a second vote was taken. He described the matter as a "complete nonissue."

The second matter involved a proposed commercial development in his neighborhood, according to Clark. "As a resident, I had every right to sign the petition," he said.

Urlacher also has produced fact sheets listing responses to comments and rumors. In one, he said he has evidence of Clark encouraging him to drop out of the race in exchange for a trustee seat.

Clark has acknowledged he called Urlacher "at his request" and left a voice message.

"Nothing was promised. There was potential for an entry level position and work your way up," Clark said. Urlacher saved the recording.

Clark reiterated his stance in a subsequent conversation, adding that any trustee appointment would require the approval of the full board.

"I would be very suspect if that recording guarantees anything to him," he said. "Clearly, that was not the intent."

Last week, Clark went on the offensive, calling on Urlacher to prove a campaign mailer statement of homeownership. He included a record of a property sale in November 2011 to Brian Urlacher, the former Chicago Bears linebacker who is Casey's brother. The warranty deed for that sale was recorded on Dec. 29, 2011, according to the document supplied by Clark. Casey Urlacher lists that address as his residence.

Owning a home and paying property taxes in Mettawa is not a requirement to run for mayor, Clark said, but he questioned why Casey Urlacher wouldn't be honest about it, saying honesty was a "fundamental characteristic" of someone who wanted to run the village.

Documents also show a quitclaim deed for the property on North St. Mary's Road was conveyed to Casey Urlacher from his brother in November 2011, but it was not recorded until March 14, 2013.

"It's all public knowledge," Casey Urlacher said.

Clark also has challenged four absentee ballots, two of the challenges were dropped.

In other campaign matters, state records show Citizens for Casey Urlacher, as of Wednesday, had received $18,000 in contributions, all $1,000 or more. The largest single contributor was Brian Urlacher at $5,000.

Clark said he has raised less than the $3,000 threshold for reporting.

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