Oak Lawn Village Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3) reacted strongly to news that the on an election petition to put a referendum on the April 2011 ballot.
, was charged with one felony count of tampering with election materials and a misdemeanor offense of disregarding the election code on Wednesday.
The referendum sought to eliminate the village manager’s position and restore power to an elected mayor.
The referendum never made it on to the ballot after it became tainted by allegations of fraud.
In January, and Wayne Gray, an appointed village planning and development commissioner, challenged the petition’s validity in court. The officials maintained that signatures were forged and collected over 200 signed affidavits from residents who claimed they never signed the petition.
Some village board members accused Mayor Dave Heilmann—who supported and signed the referendum—of condoning the alleged fraud.
“This was the worst case of petition fraud that I’ve ever seen,” Streit said, who claimed that signatures had also been forged on the nominating petitions of his opponent in the third district trustee race.
“I’m glad the state’s attorney has taken action,” the senior trustee said, who learned of the indictment after he returned from the groundbreaking for the outpatient pavilion at Advocate Christ Medical Center on Wednesday.
“I hope they indict everyone involved in the fraud,” Streit added.
Streit called the action taken by the state’s attorney’s office “gratifying” and called the experience of residents’ who signed affidavits that their signatures had been forged “scary.”
“There were a lot of upset residents,” Streit said. “I feel a sense of relief on behalf of those (residents) who were violated. They have to know that we did stand up to it.”
There were also attempts to thwart the state’s attorney’s investigation, according to Streit. Last March at Streit’s political fundraiser at B.J. McMahon’s, someone “very close” to the mayor was enraged because he was about to be questioned about his role as a circulator by the state’s attorney.
“He was a paying a participant,” Streit said. “He bought tickets and attended, but he was furious when he walked in the door. He expressed his anger very forcefully.”
The next day, the silver-haired trustee claimed, the mayor filed a complaint with the Attorney General Lisa Madigan stating that a quorum of village board trustees had violated the Open Meetings Act by holding two meetings with residents at Stony Creek Golf Course without giving advance notice.
The Stony Creek meetings, attended by Patch and other media, were for the purposed of gathering sworn affidavits from residents who claimed they never signed the petition.
Streit called a clear-cut case of intimidation by the mayor. A challenge had also been mounted against the nominating petitions of his opponent in the third district trustee race. Streit narrowly won the race despite his opponent being tossed off the ballot and running as a write in candidate.
“It was clearly, undoubtably without question an attempt to thwart the investigation by the state’s attorney,” the Dist. 3 trustee said. “It was nothing short of serious hardball politics.”
The mayor could not be reached for comment.