Referendum Petition Ends on a Whimper
Oak Lawn Tax Watch voluntarily withdraws its petition to put a referendum on the April 5 ballot to eliminate the village manager's position amid allegations of fraud.
A referendum petition tainted by allegations of fraud was quietly withdrawn in a Cook County courtroom Tuesday morning.
Oak Lawn Tax Watch filed its petition with more than 1,200 signatures on Jan. 3 to put a referendum on the April ballot asking voters if Oak Lawn should eliminate the village manager’s position.
Since then some village board members have alleged as many as 1,000 signatures may have been forged following their own informal investigation. Trustee Bob Streit likened the alleged fraud to painting Oak Lawn as “another Cicero.”
Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, the attorney for Oak Lawn Tax Watch, said the group decided to withdraw the petition yesterday because the Circuit Court of Cook County missed a deadline for publishing a legal notice about Tuesday’s hearing in a local newspaper, making the referendum petition invalid.
The referendum cannot be refiled during this election cycle.
According to Illinois election law, the court must set a hearing date not less than 10 days and no more than 30 days after the petitions are filed, and publish a legal notice of the hearing.
The court is also required to publish a legal notice as soon as possible after the petition is filed.
“Because the petition was filed on Jan. 3, the last day publication could have occurred was Jan. 17,” Krafthefer said.
Krafthefer told Patch that the withdrawal had nothing to do with the allegations of fraudulent signatures. More than 140 residents signed affidavits attesting that their signatures had been forged on the petition.
“We never investigated the fraud issue. We didn’t get that far,” Krafthefer said, who was not present in court on Tuesday. “The client (Oak Lawn Tax Watch) agreed that they didn’t want to go forward because of the notice issue. The client was disappointed because they wanted their day in court.”
Members of Oak Lawn Tax Watch did not attend Tuesday’s proceedings.
An attorney from Krafthefer’s firm, Tiffany Nelson-Jaworski, told the judge “the client was voluntarily withdrawing the petition and the case.”
Expressing irritation, Judge Susan Fox Gillis snapped, “I wish someone would have told me yesterday before I did all this work.” Monday was a federal holiday.
Oak Lawn Village Clerk Jane Quinlan and trustees Tom Duhig (2nd District) and Streit (3rd District) trouped down to Daley Center on Tuesday, armed with a legal objection that matched in girth Oak Lawn Tax Watch’s 132-page petition.
Duhig called the referedum petition “frivolous and fraudulent.”
“It was put together by a confederacy of dunces,” Duhig said. “The people who legitimately signed it, had they known they were part of a fraud wouldn’t have put their names on it.”
Both trustees have publicly asked for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to look into the alleged fraud. A prosecutor from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office sat in on the hearing as a “silent observer.”
“It’s very troubling that someone who thinks they’re more important than our form of government would stoop to such treacherous and unscrupulous tactics such as the fraud we’ve seen here,” Streit said.