Will sheriff candidate stay on ballot? Decision delayed after bias concerns raised

A hearing to determine whether a sheriff hopeful will remain on the June ballot was pushed to Friday after attorneys for both the objectors and the candidate raised concerns about potential bias among electoral board members.

An objection filed last week alleged that McHenry County sheriff candidate Tony Colatorti lacked sufficient law enforcement credentials to hold the office. An electoral board was set to consider that objection Monday.

Daniel Bolin, the attorney representing objectors William Brogan and Joel Brumlik, requested that two of three electoral board members - those representing the McHenry County state's attorney and clerk's offices - be replaced, pointing to campaign donations involving Colatorti.

Troy Owens and Kevin Chrzanowski, attorneys for Colatorti's campaign, also requested the third member - representing the McHenry County Circuit Clerk's Office - be replaced. Neither attorney specified the reason why during the hearing, and attempts to reach the attorneys Monday afternoon were unsuccessful.

The electoral board is made up of County Clerk Joe Tirio, State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally and Circuit Clerk Katherine Keefe. However, Kenneally designated Lisle Stalter, an assistant state's attorney in Lake County, to take his spot, while Keefe sent Circuit Clerk Manager Debra Schmitt.

Kenneally publicly endorsed Colatorti's candidacy and received $500 in campaign contributions from Colatorti in August 2016. Bolin's request argues Kenneally also shouldn't be given the authority to decide who sits in his place.

In March, Colatorti also donated $240 to McHenry County GOPAC, a political action committee previously led by Tirio and currently chaired by his wife, Karen Tirio. Campaign contribution records show Tirio has not donated to either Colatorti or McHenry County Undersheriff Robb Tadelman, who is running against Colatorti in the Republican primary.

"An electoral board member cannot sit in judgment of a candidate that contributed to his political committee," according to Bolin's filing.

Keefe has not donated to either candidate, and neither Tadelman nor Colatorti donated to her, records show. However, she received a contribution from current McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim in 2019, who endorsed Tadelman.

The clock is ticking for the board's decision. Board members noted Monday that the final ballots for June's primary need to be certified by April 21.

If filings weren't "expedited," Stalter said, it could cut into the time needed for other requests, such as subpoenas.

Friday's hearing will include arguments from both parties over the proposed disqualification of the current board members.

The objection centers on claims by Brumlik and Brogan, both former law enforcement officials, that Colatorti doesn't hold the necessary training certification required to run for sheriff, a new condition included in the state's criminal justice overhaul bill passed last year.

Brumlik told the Northwest Herald last week that while Colatorti provided a part-time certificate in filing his candidacy with the McHenry County Clerk's Offices, a full-time one is needed.

Colatorti said he does have proper certification and called the objection a "baseless legal challenge."

Colatorti and his attorneys declined to comment following Monday's meeting.

Tadelman was not in attendance Monday. He was in Rockford for the first day of a federal murder trial in the 2019 killing of McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Jacob Keltner.

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