Campaigning in Pingree Grove gated community causes controversy

Posted3/31/2013 8:00 AM
  • Joe Nowosielski

    Joe Nowosielski

  • Bruce Barnes

    Bruce Barnes

  • Lon Czarnecki

    Lon Czarnecki

  • Rich Eckert

    Rich Eckert

  • Ray LaMarca

    Ray LaMarca

  • Charles Pearson

    Charles Pearson

  • Patrick Whalen

    Patrick Whalen

  • Greg Marston

    Greg Marston

A Pingree Grove village board candidate was asked to leave a gated community while he was campaigning door-to-door last week. It turns out he should have been allowed to stay, officials said.

Some also questioned the actions of village President Greg Marston, who directly notified only the candidates he endorsed in the April 9 election that they could campaign at Carillon at Cambridge Lakes.

Candidate Joe Nowosielski, whom Marston endorsed, said he was campaigning Wednesday evening at Carillon, a gated community for people 55 and older, when he was asked to leave by Trustee Bernie Thomas, who lives there. Thomas, whose seat is not up for re-election, told him campaigning is not allowed at Carillon, Nowosielski said.

"(Thomas) basically told me I was breaking the law," Nowosielski said. "Had I decided to stay, it was implied police would be called."

Thomas confirmed he asked Nowosielski to leave but would not comment further.

After leaving Carillon, Nowosielski said he called Marston because he didn't know if he had done anything wrong.

"I wanted to find out, 'Hey, what's the deal?' " Nowosielski said, adding that "soliciting" and "campaigning" are two different things.

Marston said he called Police Chief Carol Lussky, who is operating as village administrator while Ken Lopez is on vacation, and representatives of Carillon developer Cambridge Homes. He said he intervened because he believes "in fair and equal access to all candidates."

Lussky, in turn, contacted village Attorney Dean Frieders, who said he determined candidates are allowed to campaign on the Carillon property.

The Carillon homeowners association doesn't own the property yet because it's still not fully developed, so the property still belongs to the developer, Cambridge Homes/D.R. Horton, Frieders said.

"I contacted the property owners, and their response was that they had no objection to campaigning from candidates running for public office," he said.

Frieders sent his findings via email to the entire village board.

Then, Marston emailed Nowosielski, candidate Rich Eckert and incumbent Steve Wiedmeyer -- the three candidates he endorsed -- to tell them it's OK to campaign at Carillon.

Eckert and Nowosielski said they both got emails from Marston on Thursday; Wiedmeyer was also a recipient of the group email, Eckert said. Wiedmeyer did not return a call for comment.

The other candidates in the race -- incumbent Ray LaMarca, Patrick Whalen, Bruce Barnes, Charles Pearson and Lon Czarnecki -- all said they didn't get any such email from Marston.

Marston said he left a voice mail on Friday for vacationing Administrator Ken Lopez, asking Lopez to notify all the candidates.

"I do not have all of the candidates' contact information; contacting Ken would enable him the next business day (Monday) to notify all of the candidates," he said.

LaMarca criticized Marston's decision to inform some candidates first.

"That's an unfair practice and showing favoritism toward certain candidates," LaMarca said.

Czarnecki agreed. "If this was actually for all the candidates, then it should be communicated to all the candidates," he said. "And I'm talking not just us, but Rutland Township and everybody else who serves that area."

Barnes said he's planning to address the issue at Monday's village board meeting.

"My intent was to ask when (Marston) intended to share it with the other candidates," he said.

Most candidates said they will respect the wishes of Carillon residents and not campaign there. Nowosielski, on the other hand, said he planned to resume his campaign "right where I left off."

Pearson, who lives in Carillon, pointed out residents bought into what they thought was a private community. He said he won't campaign in his own community "until (the change of policy) is written down and absolute. That's my stance."

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