Published Jan. 19, 2017
Five file lawsuit over November election
By Pamela Lannom
First a clerical error by the DuPage County Election Commission jeopardized the validity of four referendums on the Nov. 8 ballot, including one for a new Hinsdale Middle School.
Now Community Consolidated Elementary District 181 officials must determine how to respond to a lawsuit filed by five Clarendon Hills residents who want a judge to declare the election invalid.
“We have a unique situation in that this lawsuit has been filed and that isn’t the case for the other three entities (that had referendums on the ballot),” Superintendent Don White said. “That complicates our situation a little bit more than theirs.”
Andrew and Kirsten Schmidt, Karen Weber, Bradford Tocher and Edward Corcoran filed the petition, which names District 181 as the sole defendant, on Dec. 28. They are opposed to the district’s efforts to seek a judicial order or legislation to validate the election.
“The validation of an invalid election and the invalidation of a valid election are two sides of the same coin,” Andrew Schmidt wrote in a press statement. The plaintiffs are responding only in writing to written inquiries from the press.
At issue is the timing of the publication of a legal notice about the referendum, which was published by the DuPage County Election Commission three days too early. By law, notices must be published no more than 30 days and not less than 10 days before an election.
“The DuPage Board of Election Commissioners failed to execute all the requirements of the Election Code,” Schmidt wrote. “That is a fact. The law was not followed and proposed legal gymnastics aside, the simplest solution is acknowledge that fact and move on.”
The “obvious solution,” plaintiffs said, was for the district to ask voters to approve the $53.3 million ballot question again in the April 4 election.
The deadline for the District 181 board to approve a referendum for the April election was Tuesday, and board members did not vote to do so at their meeting that night.
White said he would like to see the Feb. 27 court date set for the case moved up.
He also hopes Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign Senate Bill 3319, which would amend the Elections Code to provide that notice of a public question is valid if given more than 30 days but not more than 35 days prior to the Nov. 8 general election. The bill passed the House and Senate Jan. 10.
“The vote wasn’t even close and it was a bipartisan effort,” White said.
Until this matter is settled, the first $10 million bond sale for the project is on hold (see adjacent story). Ken Surma, assistant superintendent for business and operations, has said the district’s $23 million in reserves will be enough to support the project without a bond sale until the end of March.