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Chicken fried election?

The hearing which led to a candidate's removal from the ballot raises questions -- not about the procedure or the Village Board -- but how much interest in village affairs exists.

I’m still mulling over the village’s Electoral Board hearing, which determined that Jeff Battinus was not eligible to be on the ballot for the April election.

The outcome seemed inevitable.  Not because of who is on the Electoral Board – cynics will say the old guard was out to nail Battinus – but that’s not the case.  The Electoral Board consists of the Village President, Village Clerk and most tenured trustee, which means it was Board President Jeff Braiman, Village Clerk Jan Sirabian and Trustee Jeff Berman.  Period.

The challenge to Battinus’ filing was not by any of the old guard, but by relative new comer Andrew Stein who was elected in 2011 to fill the remainder of ousted trustee Lisa Stone.

To help breakthrough the confusion, I met with local political observer Chicken Little.  “I’m not sure what to make of the whole thing,” Little said.  “I’m actually kind of fried, which is not a good state to be in.”

I asked him what exactly bothered him.

“ Several things. For starters, do you need to be named Jeff to be involved in the village process?  I mean, really, look at who was there --  Jeff Braiman, Jeff Berman, Jeff Battinus, and just for good measure, the attorney consulting Jeff Stein – so we had for Jeffs and two steins.”

OK, so your point is?

“Nothing really,” Little said, “but it would be nice if we had some name diversity.”  So, I asked him, what about other candidates?  Do you think they ::ahem:: chickened out?

“Not sure,” he said, “I’m still trying to figure things out.”

Good luck, I told him.

Breaking through the abundance of Jeffs, "JBs" and multiple Steins, the result of the hearing means that the Village Board election will be uncontested.  There are three candidates – incumbents Beverly Sussman, Lester A. Ottenheimer III and Stein (remember, that’s Andrew Stein) -- for three spots.

So out of a community of 43,000 plus, only four people sought to serve – and because of the ruling by the Electoral Board, we’re trimmed to three.  Quite honestly, it’s pretty amazing, especially given how we’ve been led to believe that the village is corrupt, the trustees are dishonest, the village is going to hell and everyone should flee the coup.

“Hey, don’t get personal,” Little said.

The ruling which took the contest out of contested election was pretty cut-and-dry.  Stein (oops, make that Jeff Stein) told the hearing that there were three cases that addressed election filing challenges and in all three cases, the Appellate Court upheld the ruling.

Which didn’t surprise Battinus.  “I made a mistake,” he said.  “My problem was a clerical error.”  Battinus noted, several times, that the ruling takes away the opportunity for Buffalo Grove residents to have a choice.

Depending on your point of view, Stein – make that Andrew Stein – emerges as a goat or a hero.  Jeff Stein, however, made it clear that there is no way to over ride the statute.

Unlike some previous gatherings in the Council Chambers (ponder this for a minute – why are they called the Council Chambers, when it’s one room and the Village does not have a council?  Just asking.) the atmosphere was actually pleasant and respectful.

“You did the tough park,” Braiman said.  “You went door-to-door and got hundreds of signatures from people on the street.”  Braiman noted that the Electoral Board had “no authority to do otherwise.”

Berman concurred, noting that “whatever sympathies or thoughts we may have, the courts have ruled.”

Battinus, who moved to the village in 2010, was gracious in accepting his fate.  “ I have to be accountable.  I screwed up.”  Battinus says his goal is to serve “my community – that’s it.”  He is mulling a run as a write-in candidate, but still needs to file paperwork with both Lake and Cook counties.  Among other things.

Battinus says it depends on fund-raising, estimating it will take nearly $6,000 to run a campaign, which factors in signs, mailers and even attorney fees.  “A grass roots effort won’t be enough…If nothing else, I have name recognition.”

‘Whatever he does, he’s going to be very careful about crossing his Ts and dotting his Is.  “I won’t make the same mistake again,” he said.

He won’t be able to as long as Andrew Stein is around. 

The process for reviewing candidate filing challenges is cut and dry.  The question is why would someone, in this case Andrew Stein, challenge a candidate’s petition and why.

Stein contends he has done elections in 2009 and again in 2011 when he ran for the Village Board.  He said the reviews were a learning experience and in one case he contacted a candidate’s staff member to tell him that there was an error. 

Good neighbor Stein?

Maybe.

Concerned public official?

Maybe.

Battinus, however isn’t so sure, and here’s where it gets interesting.

Battinus told the hearing that Andrew Stein told him on three occasions that he should consider not running.  “The third time,” Battinus said later, “he said someone would contest it (his filing).”

Stein told me that he did in fact talk with Battinus and discussed his (Stein’s) consideration to run in 2009.  “I talked with him about my background in 2009 and that people told me I didn’t have the experience,” Stein said.  He added that he suggested to Battinus to gain more experience and build name recognition.

Stein says he told Battinus that if he followed the directions in the candidate’s guide their probably would not be a problem.

Stein says he did “all the research I could” after the filing deadline and was more than a little surprised when he found that Battinus did not file an economic disclosure form.  Stein said he spoke with Battinus on Jan. 1 to discuss his filing, but did not tell him that it was he who was going to file the objection.  Stein said he discussed the options with Battinus which, Stein said “were to withdraw and save yourself and the village money for legal fees, or right it.”

“I hate to say it,” said Little, “but it seems kind of scrambled to me.”

C.L. might be on to something here.

Battinus did little to defend himself and, barely 14 minutes into the hearing, asked the Electoral Board if they could go to closing remarks.

Had Braiman and Berman, along with attorney Jeff Stein not made it clear that there was no way to go against the statutes, there could have been some interesting debate.  Instead, it resorted to an exchange of polite understandings and Battinus admitting that he made the error and he was not “angry with him (Andrew Stein).” 

All that was missing was a group hug.

“So what happens now?” Little asked.  “Can I run as a write-in candidate?”

“And that is?”

As noted, potential write-in candidates must file their intent to run as a write-in candidate in both Lake and Cook counties in order for their votes to count.

“And if I don’t?” he asked. 

Simple – your votes won’t count.

“Hmmm,” he said.  “What if there’s a crowd of write-in candidates?”

Seems to me there won’t be, especially since there was only one nonincumbent who had planned to run.

“Why do you think that is?” he asked.

Not sure – lack of time, lack of money or lack of interest.

“Or maybe the sky isn’t falling,” Little said.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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