Complaints may alter election

Evanston’s Electoral Board will review complaints that threaten to remove two aldermanic candidates and a referendum from the April 5 municipal election ballot. This is the first time the board will rule on ballot objections in more than a decade.

Complaints were filed Tuesday with the Evanston City Clerk’s office challenging the nomination petitions of Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) and Fourth Ward candidate Ryan Garton.

Resurrection Health Care and St. Francis Hospital, 355 Ridge Ave., also filed an objection against a referendum requesting an investigation of Resurrection Health Care’s tax-exempt status. Two Evanston residents also signed the objection against the referendum.

Mayor Lorraine H. Morton, City Clerk Mary Morris and Ald. Gene Feldman (9th), who serve on the city’s Electoral Board, will hear the complaints within the next week.

The candidates and the referendum could be removed from the ballot if the board agrees with the objections.

These objections are the first the board has reviewed since at least 1993, Morton said Wednesday.

The challenge to Garton’s candidacy was submitted by Norris Larson, the campaign manager for the other Fourth Ward candidate, Ald. Steven Bernstein. The complaint claims that signatures listed on Garton’s petitions are forgeries, some names appear more than once and some names and addresses

are illegible.

Because of the inconsistencies, Larson argues in the complaint that Garton does not have the 69 signatures needed to be on the ballot. Larson could not be reached for comment Thursday.

“If I have to run against a candidate, I will win,” Bernstein said. “If you don’t follow the law, you quite honestly don’t have a right to run.”

Garton, who learned about the objection Thursday, said the details of the complaint are “baseless.”

“(The people I spoke to) are concerned that (Bernstein) is not representing their interests currently,” Garton said. “And maybe he is threatened by that, so he is challenging the signatures of people because that is the only place he feels he has to go, and he actually feels threatened that he might lose.”

Garton said he will be evaluating his options.

He said he just returned from vacation and still needs to contact the City Clerk to obtain more information about the objection.

The other objection to an alderman’s petition came from Robert Nierodzik, who challenged Jean-Baptiste’s candidacy. Nierodzik’s objection contends that Jean-Baptiste exceeded the maximum number of signatures allowed for the Second Ward.

The objection against the Resurrection Health Care referendum takes issue with a petition’s wording challenging Resurrection’s tax-exempt status.

Christine Rybicki, a spokeswoman for St Francis Hospital, said the union failed to inform voters the referendum would impact only St. Francis and that the hospital pays more than $1.1 million in property taxes in 2004.

“The question in the petition is very deceptive,” Rybicki said.

The complaint also objects “the clear intent of the question is to injure and damage the reputation of Saint Francis Hospital and its affiliate Resurrection Health Care.”

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees organized the referendum, saying the hospital was not providing enough charity care to remain a tax-exempt organization.

Raymond Summers, president of Local AFSCME 1891A and the named proponent of the referendum, said the objectors have a right to their complaint. But he said the wording of the referendum was correct.

“It wasn’t done by a layman,” Summers said. “It was done by someone totally knowledgeable of how the wording was supposed to be constructed.”

Reach Breanne Gilpatrick at [email protected] and Lee S. Ettleman at [email protected].