Brennan, Streit and Oak Lawn politics
Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-6787 February 19, 2011 1:06AM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Attorney Dennis Brennan made a triumphant return to Oak Lawn politics last week.
Brennan, who in 2001 was found guilty of several violations of state election law while an attorney for Oak Lawn High School District 229, got Daniel Sodaro kicked off the April 5 election ballot for the village board.
Sodaro intended to run for trustee against incumbent Robert Streit (3rd), Brennan’s good friend. Streit was the only witness to testify on Brennan’s behalf before an Illinois Election Board hearing officer in 1991.
In the Sodaro case, Brennan represented Andrew Skoundrianos, an Oak Lawn resident and well-known political activist, who challenged candidate petitions submitted by Sodaro, who is school board president in Ridgeland District 122.
Brennan on Thursday presented 16 sworn statements to the Oak Lawn Election Board, signed by residents who said people who claimed they had circulated Sodaro’s petitions had not solicited their signatures. One of those circulators was Sodaro himself.
Under Illinois election law, a petition circulator “must personally witness all signatures and sign the certificate required, stating that all signatures were taken in his presence.” Furthermore, “no one may be considered a circulator of any petition page except the person who signs its certificate,” according to the law.
Neither Sodaro nor his attorney appeared before the election board Thursday evening to contest the charges.
The election board was chaired by Mayor David Heilmann and included village Clerk Jane Quinlan and Trustee Jerry Hurckes (1st).
Sodaro issued a statement Thursday night, saying he now plans to run as a write-in candidate against Streit. He said he failed to appear before the election board because “my legal bills exceed $8,000” and his attorney indicated it would cost him $8,000 more to defend himself at the hearing and for the likely court challenge that would follow.
That statement is a little hard to swallow because Sodaro could have showed up at the election board hearing and taken an oath that he circulated all of the petitions he signed.
He might not have beaten his challengers, but that certainly would have sent a clear message to voters that he had nothing to hide.
Sodaro’s campaign message, as Streit pointed out, has been that he would restore integrity to the Oak Lawn Village Board. Streit gloated that Sodaro didn’t want to perjure himself under oath after having “already perjured himself” by signing the candidate petitions.
I would point out that in none of the affidavits I read did anyone claim they were duped into signing Sodaro’s petitions. These people apparently wanted Sodaro on the ballot, although Brennan said he had other evidence that indicated some of the signatures on Sodaro’s petitions were forgeries.
Brennan tossed around the word “fraud” a lot at the election board hearing Thursday evening, but in 2001 Illinois Election Board member David Murray called the actions of Brennan and his political committee “as close to out-and-out fraud as I can characterize.”
Brennan was behind a political committee that circulated a damaging videotape to residents during a heated District 229 school board election campaign. Brennan was the school board’s lawyer at the time, and a slate of candidates had vowed to oust him if elected.
Brennan recruited a Chicago businessman with no connection to Oak Lawn politics to front the political committee, but the state election board found that Brennan financed the entire operation, arranged for distribution of the videotape and used the businessman as a figurehead so Brennan could hide his involvement.
Skoundrianos told me several times this week that he resented a statement I made in a column, calling him a “lackey” of Streit. He also asked me to find out who is paying Sodaro’s attorney’s fees, claiming that Heilmann was backing Sodaro.
“Ask Sodaro to see the checks he used to pay his attorney,” Skoundrianos said.
I asked Skoundrianos if I could see the checks he writes to Brennan, and he said I could and that they would reveal he was paying hundreds of dollars for his services, not thousands.
I then turned to Streit, who was standing nearby, and asked him if he was paying Brennan’s legal bills.
There was a long silence. Finally, Streit said, “That hasn’t been determined yet.”
I was wrong about Skoundrianos. He is much more than a lackey.
As for Streit, he has served as a village trustee for 20 years, survived numerous upheavals on the village board and remains an influential force in Oak Lawn politics.
He earned his right to celebrate Sodaro’s defeat on Thursday.
Brennan did well by his friend.