The Rewind: Oak Lawn's Top Stories, Jan. 10-15
Politics is local, escaping the needle, tax hikes and other news that made the cutting room floor.
OAK LAWN: CSI
Who knew there were so many forensic handwriting experts on the Oak Lawn Village Board?
Last weekend 640 letters were mailed to residents whose names appeared on a petition circulated by a citizens watchdog group called Oak Lawn Tax Watch to put a referendum on the April 5 ballot to change the village’s form of government.
Residents were invited to two sessions Sunday and Monday evenings at the Stoney Creek Golf Club to come and verify their signatures. The signature recall was orchestrated by Village Clerk Jane Quinlan and village trustees Bob Streit, Tom Duhig, Tom Phelan and Alex Oljeniczak.
More than 140 residents signed affidavits stating that their signatures were forged.
In impassioned speeches at last Tuesday’s village board meeting that made for riveting public access television, the same Oak Lawn elected officials alleged that 800 to 1,000 signatures are fraudulent.
At least two village board members said that whoever was behind these forgeries would be prosecuted “to the fullest extent of the law.”
Patch asked Streit if had any special training in forensic handwriting analysis that would enable him to detect 800 to 1,000 forged signatures. The readers want to know.
“Actually I don’t, but you certainly don’t need any to see that these petitions are signed by the same person, line after line,” Streit said. “The more you look at the petitions, the more you see.”
A hearing before Cook County Judge Susan Fox Gillis is scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 18, in room 1708 at the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St., in Chicago.
Fraudulent signatures also turned up on a candidate’s petitions in the Moraine Valley Community College board races, its electoral board said.
Trustee Carol Quinlan, who was not at Stoney Creek, and her husband, Joe, helped circulate the referendum petitions. Quinlan said that fellow village board members are “grasping at straws” and accusations that she was somehow involved in vast conspiracy to commit fraud “bizarre.”
“There’s nothing wrong with asking people what they want. I think it’s a valid point that we have a mayor who has no power,” Quinlan said. “There are a lot of people who don’t understand that in the village and that it’s the village manager who makes all these decisions."
Skoundrianos vs Sodaro
Oak Lawn resident Andy Skoundrianos’ objection against village board trustee candidate Dan Sodaro’s nominating petitions continued with a second hearing before the Oak Lawn Village Electoral Board last Friday.
Skoundrianos, a 23-year employee of Walgreens, claims that Sodaro and his circulators forged signatures and committed perjury while gathering signatures.
Sodaro has thus far survived a binder check that compared signatures on his petitions to voters’ signatures on their voter registrations at the Cook County Clerk’s office last Wednesday. Of the 96 signatures on Sodaro’s nominating sheets eight of them were tossed by the county clerk.
Candidate Sodaro, who is running for the third district seat on the village board against entrenched incumbent Bob Streit, also won a partial victory on Friday when the village electoral board dismissed part of Skoundrianos’ objection because of a typo in the objection.
Skoundrianos’s attorney Dennis Brennan claimed after the “kangaroo court” that electoral board members Mayor Dave Heilmann and Trustee Jerry Hurckes made up their minds beforehand without reading case law in his reply to the motion to dismiss.
And, after 38 minutes of haggling at Friday’s electoral board hearing after Sodaro’s attorney learned that the hearing may be rebroadcast on Channel 4, Mayor Dave Heilmann ordered the village’s public access TV camera shut off.
“I’m pro-taping but I believe this is a very unusual request,” Heilmann said. “I don’t think these things are supposed to be political circus.”
Crime and No Punishment
Illinois lawmakers voted to abolish the death penalty after hours of impassioned debate on the state senate floor. Senators who supported repeal of the state’s capital punishment law pointed to numerous examples of exonerated Death Row inmates and the state’s broken criminal justice system. State Sen. Edward Maloney (Dist. 18) voted against the measure.
Convicted killer Ricardo Harris who shot two employees at an Oak Lawn liquor store in May 1999, and shot two sisters who were at the store buying a case of beer, is one of the state’s remaining 15 inmates sitting on Death Row.
An IDOC spokeswoman told Patch that the ban if enacted would not apply to those now on Death Row. Harris could still escape the needle if Gov. Quinn keeps the current moratorium in place or commutes the sentences to life in prison.
For at least one Oak Lawn police detective that worked to solve the case, the Illinois legislature’s repeal of the death penalty is justice denied for the victims and their families.
Edgy Over Tax Hikes
The busy Illinois State Legislature also passed a bill hiking the state’s personal income tax to 67 percent, and corporate tax from 4.9 percent to 7 percent. Illinois smokers got a break when the Illinois House failed to pass a $1.01 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes.
Oak Lawn business owners trying to keep their doors open admitted to being on edge about the new tax hikes. Said Chad Reno, owner of The Cornerstone Café, he’s weeks away from closing his doors.
“I haven’t paid January’s rent yet,” Reno said.
The Paper Clips Win
After the Dist 229 electoral board hearing in which school board president Stephen Trotto challenged James Melnick's nominating petitions over his choice of fastener, I may never look at a paper clip the same way again.
The Dist. 229 electoral board overruled Trotto's challenge who is running against Melnick for a 2-year term on the Oak Lawn Community High School school board.
Just for the hell of it, Patch went over to D229's administrative office to see how the other board candidates nominating petitions were fastened. Three used paper clips. Trotto's were stapled.