Elk Grove panel defers to court on one referendum objection

Elk Grove Village's electoral board agreed Monday that one objection filed against a March 17 term-limits referendum is in the hands of the court, but set a hearing for Saturday, Jan. 4 to hear oral arguments on a second objection.

Both involve a ballot question filed by resident Tim Burns, which would retroactively ask voters whether the mayor and village trustees should be able to serve no more than two consecutive 4-year terms. If approved, it could prevent four longtime incumbents - including Mayor Craig Johnson - from running again in April 2021.

However, a law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker requires municipal term limits approved after Nov. 8, 2016 to be prospective, not retroactive - meaning terms served before limits are in place would have no relevance to such limits.

In the case of an objection filed by Benjamin Lee against Burns' referendum, Burns' attorney, Ross Secler, agreed the new state law would invalidate the ballot question if that law were constitutional. Only the Cook County circuit court - not the village's electoral board - has the authority to rule on its constitutionality and it is already considering it under the same tight time frame, he said.

As a result, the electoral board had no option but to sustain Lee's objection and leave it to the court to determine the law's constitutionality. The board will reconvene briefly at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 28 to formally sign off on that decision.

The second objection to the referendum, filed by Gil Schumm, is based on different grounds.

The Committee to Oppose the Retroactive Term Limits Referendum, of which Schumm is the treasurer, alleges Burns committed a "pattern of fraud" by not being the true circulator of some petition sheets he filed.

Schumm's committee collected affidavits from 38 signers of petitions on which Burns is listed as circulator. They said the person who asked them to sign wasn't Burns, who is a white man, but in some cases was a woman and in others a black man, according to Schumm's objection.

The electoral board gave Secler until Dec. 26 to file a motion to dismiss the objection. Schumm's attorney, John Fogarty, must file a response by Dec. 28 and Secler must respond to that by Dec. 30.

A hearing for arguments on the motion to dismiss was set for 11 a.m. Jan. 4 at village hall. Concurrent with that, electoral board Chairman Daniel Kelly said a records exam would be applied for with the Cook County clerk.

Kelly and fellow appointee Christopher Cohen joined Village Clerk Lorrie Murphy on the Elk Grove Village electoral board after Johnson and Trustee Nancy Czarnik recused themselves because they would be directly affected by the referendum. Cook County Judge Sharon Sullivan made the appointments of the public members.

To remain on the March 17 ballot, the referendum must fend off both objections. If either objection prevailed, the question would be pulled.

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