New Barrington Hills trustees hope to heal rift

Newly elected Barrington Hills trustees are hoping to put recent political divisions in the village behind them in a new spirit of cooperation.

But first, the winning candidates from the Save 5 Acres slate still have at least one more area of contention to resolve: an April 19 hearing before the State Board of Elections over their admitted violation of a new campaign finance law.

The Save 5 Acres candidates — incumbent Joe Messer, current Village Clerk Karen Selman and Patty Meroni — will begin 4-year terms alongside Common Sense Party candidate Skip Gianopulos, who ran unopposed for a 2-year term.

Though Gianopulos’ three running mates were defeated in their run for the 4-year seats, he still believes he can be effective on a board made with three trustees from another slate.

While majority votes won’t forward the Common Sense Party’s agenda, Gianopulos hopes he can win some other trustees over by clearly articulating his point of view.

But he admits that a heated campaign caused candidates to lose sight of the fact they were only debating different strategies to preserve Barrington Hills’ character.

“We have some healing to do in the village,” Gianopulos said. “It’s a great place. We all love it and we want to protect it.”

“Skip is right,” Selman said. “No matter what anybody says, no one wants to live anywhere else.”

During the campaign, Gianopulos’ Common Sense Party advocated compromise on the town’s 5-acre zoning along the borders to stop losing disconnection lawsuits and protect the interior of the village.

Save 5 Acres argued against such compromise, saying it would threaten the town’s character.

“My take on the situation was that our position was in agreement with the people we were able to speak with,” Messer said.

But reaching every resident in a village like Barrington Hills proved difficult, and Messer had some doubts when he saw the large number of Common Sense Party signs springing up.

“When you see all that, you start to wonder, is there something I’m missing?” he said.

But he took the election results to be an endorsement of both Save 5 Acres’ position as well as the leadership of its members.

Messer, too, hopes governing Barrington Hills won’t be as rabidly divisive as in the recent past. That will require an effort by both sides, he said.

“On the other hand, we can’t have people who are going to just show up at meetings and attack the board by making spectacles of themselves,” he said.

The State Board of Elections hearing on the 19th is expected to bring a ruling on Save 5 Acres’ admitted failure to report resident Benjamin LeCompte as the original source of $5,000 donations to each candidate’s campaign fund.

Selman and Messer said the mistake was admitted immediately and the money returned to LeCompte.

They anticipate having to pay a fine, but don’t expect any ruling that would impact their ability to govern.