Five candidates slated by the Support the Library group will stay on the April 9 ballot in a contentious Carol Stream library board race, despite objections to their nominating petitions.
The objections were filed by Elaine Wierdak, a former circulation desk clerk and coordinator at the library, who argued in a lawsuit that her employment was wrongfully terminated in April 2009.
She said in the suit she was fired by then-Director Ann Kennedy for campaigning on behalf of her boyfriend, Dominick Jeffrey, who lost the 2009 election for library board, but was elected in 2011.
Wierdak filed objections to the petitions of current library Trustee Jim Bailey, Patricia Johnson, Nadia Sheikh, Edward Jourdan and Bonita Gilliam. She said the five candidates filed petitions labeled “independent” when they should have been marked “nonpartisan.”
The candidates picked up petitions from Carol Stream village hall, where candidates for village board also collected petitions for their race, which is partisan and party preference can be indicated.
Village Trustee Pam Fenner, chairwoman of the three-member Carol Stream Municipal Electoral Board, said state law says candidates must be aware of what petitions they should use, but also is clear that petitions don’t have to say “nonpartisan” or “independent.”
Fenner and Village Clerk Beth Melody voted 2-0 Monday to keep the candidates on the ballot. The third member of the electoral board, Village President Frank Saverino, was absent.
“We believed there was no confusion on the part of people signing petitions for that one word that said ‘independent’ and not ‘nonpartisan,’” Fenner said.
Wierdak couldn’t be reached for comment, but Jeffrey, speaking on her behalf, said she found the petitions of the five candidates to be “grossly out of place.”
“How can you offer leadership if you can’t bother to read the forms?” Jeffrey said. “You can’t fill out the right candidate form and you’ve run three times for office like Mr. (Jim) Bailey? They can’t read, and they don’t desire to read.”
Bailey, who is seeking a two-year term against Jeffrey’s son, Joshua, said the village clerk sent the candidates letters advising them they could use the forms even if they were the wrong ones.
He said he believes Wierdak “is not smart enough to come up with this,” and the objections were the doing of board President Mike Wade.
“This is all Mr. Wade trying to engineer the board,” Bailey said. “Elaine is a patsy.”
Wade did not respond to a request for comment.
The Support the Library committee began organizing last year in response to actions taken by a new library board majority led by Wade. In July, Wade recommended the firing of Kennedy due to “issues of communication with the board,” though the two long differed on issues, including Kennedy’s push to build a library on Kuhn Road. Since Kennedy’s dismissal, the board voted to put the 7½-acre Kuhn Road property up for sale and hired a new director, Susan Westgate, who has been serving as assistant director of the Bartlett Public Library.
The five candidates slated by the Support the Library committee are being opposed primarily by members of the Chicago West Patriots Tea Party, organized by Wade. Those candidates are Wade, Joshua Jeffrey and current Trustees Jerry Clark and Susan Galle.
“This board has done a good job,” Dominick Jeffrey said. “We’re looking for a tax reduction in the next budget. We have a good library director coming on board. And we straightened out the things that were wrong ... (The other) group wants to come in there and tax the life out of you.”
Justin Moran also is running for the board.
The electoral board is convened any time objections are filed against nominating petitions in village or library races. The village pays for the hearing, which could cost more than $1,000, mainly due to lawyers’ fees, Fenner said.
The last hearing was in 2009, when one candidate for library board, Linda DeRango, was tossed off the ballot because she filed for an open 4-year term as well as a 2-year term. Objections filed against four other candidates — Wade, Jeffrey, his son Joshua and DeRango’s husband David — were overturned.
Wade was elected in 2009; Dominick Jeffrey and David DeRango in 2011.
Jeffrey said the electoral board’s ruling “seems like a double standard” since Linda DeRango was taken off the ballot for an error he believes to be minor in comparison.
“I guess the law only applies to some people,” Jeffrey said.
Linda DeRango, who was fired as a library circulation desk clerk and receptionist in February 2007, also filed suit against the library. She claimed her termination was based upon not supporting an April 2007 referendum question to build a new library.
A settlement conference between attorneys for DeRango and the library was held in November — almost two years after she filed suit, according to federal court records. Library officials have denied requests to release the settlement agreement until the document is formally executed.
In December, the library board consented to terms of a settlement with DeRango in a closed session meeting.
Wierdak’s lawsuit was settled out of court in October 2010, with the library paying her $39,000, according to a settlement agreement obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.