Elk Grove Village board maneuvers to scuttle term limits referendum

Elk Grove Village trustees have approved putting three advisory referendums on the 2020 ballot, a maneuver that could help scuttle an effort to impose term limits on village leaders.

That would happen first with a successful challenge to the petitions filed July 8 by resident Tim Burns. He led the signature-gathering effort for a referendum on limiting the mayor and village trustees to no more than two consecutive 4-year terms.

If that measure is approved, it would take effect the following year and bar Mayor Craig Johnson and three other longtime board members from seeking reelection in 2021, unraveling one of the longest streaks of village board continuity in the suburbs.

But if Burns' referendum is successfully challenged and removed from the March 17, 2020, primary ballot, the three other questions approved by the village board Tuesday would get on. State law allows a maximum of three referendums from a unit of government on the same ballot, blocking any effort to pursue another term limits referendum before the December deadline.

Burns could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

At the very least, two of the three village questions will get on, "and maybe three, if (the term limits measure) doesn't survive," said Johnson, who was coy about the purpose of the advisory questions.

They will ask voters if the village should expand its Mid-Summer Classics Concert Series, whether the village should have local neighborhood community events, and if it should expand its coordination of charitable functions that fund the youth committee college scholarship program.

"It's a good way to get feedback from the community," Johnson said after the Tuesday afternoon board meeting, just before The Commodores took the stage as part of the summer concert series outside village hall. "Let's see what the folks think."

In a prepared statement Tuesday, Johnson sought to discredit Burns' referendum drive by noting most petition-passers - more than three-quarters - weren't from Elk Grove.

"The few (petitions) that were from village residents did not turn in enough to place the question on the ballot, hence the need for outsiders who were paid professionals to circulate petitions to get enough on the ballot," Johnson said. "Since this occurred, the village clerk, elected officials and village staff have heard from numerous residents that these outsiders were saying misleading and outright falsehoods about what was on the actual petitions they were circulating."

Burt Odelson, the prominent Chicago election attorney retained by the group headed by Burns, said last week that a quarter of those collecting signatures were paid for their time, but it's a legal and common practice.

There have not been any formal written challenges to Burns' petitions since they were turned in last week. Burns had until Dec. 16 to turn in signatures, and objectors have until Dec. 23 to contest them, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Elk Grove Village Clerk Lorrie Murphy said a "handful" of residents already have submitted signed affidavits to her office asking to have their names removed from petitions. Murphy said state officials told her to hold onto the affidavits since they could be used if any objections are filed.

Term limit push in Elk Grove Village could end mayor's long run

Tim Burns
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