Lisle mayor happy 'frivolous' four-town merger won't be on ballot
A proposed referendum question asking voters if they want to merge Lisle, Warrenville and Woodridge into Naperville will not appear on the April 4 ballot, a DuPage County judge ruled Wednesday.
Judge Paul M. Fullerton granted motions to dismiss the question filed by mayors of the three smaller communities, who oppose the idea of annexing their towns into their larger neighbor.
"I'm very happy we got this frivolous challenge off our backs right now," Lisle Mayor Joe Broda said.
The question will not come before Warrenville and Woodridge voters because the idea's originators -- who have not come forward publicly -- failed to gather enough signatures.
In Warrenville, 177 signatures are required to meet the threshold of 10 percent of the voters in the previous municipal election, but only 81 signatures were filed. In Woodridge, 235 signatures are necessary for ballot placement and 50 were filed.
"The numbers are not even close," Fullerton said.
Attorney Andrew Finko, who represented the unnamed originators of the petition Wednesday in court on behalf of Chicago attorney Frank Avila, said his client intended to supplement the signatures with additional names to meet the minimum requirements. Finko said he did not have any more signatures available to present Wednesday.
"This is ridiculous in my view," Fullerton said. "It's not in good faith."
In Lisle, Fullerton said petitioners filed 187 signatures -- five more than the required 182.
But the question also will not appear for voters there because Fullerton ruled that petitioners failed to follow proper procedure.
Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, an attorney representing Lisle, said anyone filing signatures for a ballot question must notify the court within 14 days of the filing so a hearing can be scheduled to consider any objections. Because that didn't happen, the question could not be placed on the ballot, she said.
The procedural dismissal meant Fullerton did not rule either way about the validity of the 187 signatures gathered in Lisle.
Krafthefer said many of them appear invalid because the names do not match addresses of voters in Lisle. The count of 187 already was lowered from the 219 it appeared petitioners turned in because Fullerton said names and signatures on three of the pages were exactly the same, but could be counted only once.
Broda said he still is considering whether to challenge the petitioners in court for presenting "fraudulent signatures."
"You just can't fraudulently write signatures down on a petition, and names and addresses that don't even exist," he said.
The low number of signatures gathered in Woodridge shows residents don't support losing their community's identity, and Mayor Gina Cunningham-Picek said the same holds true for people living in all of the towns affected by the proposal.
"Woodridge residents are proud to live in Woodridge," Cunningham-Picek said. "This whole discussion and annexation topic only served to reinforce that pride in our community."
Warrenville Mayor David Brummel said the proposal also has sparked positive discussions about government efficiency and cooperation.
"It's good to differentiate between consolidation that makes sense, that will actually provide benefits to people, and consolidation that just sounds like a good idea," Brummel said.
Mayors of all four communities have said combining the towns would have been costly and complicated, likely affecting other units of government and the way services are delivered.
The petitioners' attorney Avila did not immediately return a call or email seeking comment. Avila previously said petitioners brought forward the idea as a way to decrease property taxes in Lisle, Warrenville and Woodridge, but mayors say there is no proof such a merger would have resulted in lower taxes.