Petition challenge at center of New Lenox SD 122 election saga
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org January 15, 2013 10:50PM
Nick DiSandro, District 122 School Board President, leaves a press conference at the district headquarters in New Lenox, IL on Tuesday January 15, 2013. He said what School Board 122 member Maureen Broderick in photo at left, did was unfair, she should have recused herself from the electoral board after she was involved in filing an objection to fellow board member Kathy Miller's nomination petition and then voted to take Miller off the ballot. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 17, 2013 6:39AM
With a change in the board majority at stake in the upcoming New Lenox School District 122 election, questions have been raised about how one candidate got kicked off the ballot.
Current board member Kathy Miller, who was running unopposed for a two-year term, will appeal Friday’s decision to take her name off the April 9 ballot after issues were raised about the filing of the objection to her nominating petitions.
In a news conference Tuesday, board President Nick DiSandro said Miller did not get a fair hearing with the district’s electoral board, which included DiSandro, board secretary Maureen Broderick and board member Sue Smith.
Broderick should have recused herself from the board because she was “involved” in filing the objection against Miller, DiSandro said.
“No one should be judge, jury and executioner,” DiSandro said. Miller “never got a fair trial.” He said he has contacted the Will County state’s attorney’s office and the state board of elections in this matter.
According to DiSandro and the district’s election official, Carolyn Zimba, Broderick reviewed the nominating petitions on Jan. 3, left and returned with two objections — one against candidate Thomas Hottinger, which Broderick signed; and an objection against Miller, signed by district resident Nicole Sanders.
The typed wording on both objections was identical, with the same objection regarding discrepancies with the names and signatures of the persons who circulated the petitions, and its notarization.
Broderick later withdrew her objection to Hottinger’s petitions, noting he still had enough valid signatures on his petitions.
DiSandro said Broderick told him she had someone else sign Miller’s objection so she could judge the issue as a member of the electoral board.
Sanders, the woman who signed the objection, did not look at Miller’s petition, according to Zimba, who said Broderick and Smith were the only ones who looked at the petitions. But Supt. Mike Sass said Broderick took pictures of the petitions with her cell phone.
During the electoral board hearing, DiSandro said the board’s attorney cited case law indicating that errors like Miller’s that Sanders objected to were “minor clerical errors” that were not made maliciously and do not warrant removing her from the ballot. The electoral board voted 2 to 1 to remove Miller from the ballot, with DiSandro voting against the objection.
Broderick, however, told a completely different story.
Broderick said she has “no clue” how Sanders was able to view Miller’s petition.
“I’m not even going to address that,” she said. “The issue is that Kathy did not fill out things the right way.”
Broderick said she met Sanders at the grocery store and said she would turn in Sanders’ objection because she was going to the school district office to check other petitions because she didn’t want Miller to think she was being singled out.
“After I saw what Nikki had done, I did the same thing (challenge a petition),” she said, after discovering Hottinger had similar mistakes.
She said she didn’t even know she was on the electoral board and no one suggested she remove herself.
“If they had a concern, I would have recused myself,” Broderick said. She also told the SouthtownStar that Miller is “Sass’s puppet,” and that Miller has attacked her on the school board “every chance she gets.”
Broderick said DiSandro pressured her to withdraw her objection to Hottinger so she could remain on the electoral board.
Sanders told the SouthtownStar she saw Miller’s nominating petition because “someone put the damn thing in my mailbox. It must have been a disgruntled employee who was afraid to speak up.”
She said she found one questionable page of Miller’s petitions in her mailbox.
Miller needed 50 signatures and turned in 56, but eliminating the page that Sanders signed the objection to left her with 44.
“I’m a ‘good government’ freak. I’m a law enforcement fan,” Sanders said, adding that she has evaluated other petitions for the Will County Board. “That woman did not do her due diligence. She did not pay attention to the rules.”
When asked if she personally filed the objection at the district office, Sanders claimed there was a “buzzing” in her phone and hung up. Sanders did not return subsequent calls.
Miller said she does not know what Broderick’s motive is for wanting her off the ballot. Smith and Broderick “felt this was an opportunity to get rid of me,” Miller said. “I never got a fair shake at the hearing.”
She is appealing “because my reputation is on the line,” she said. If that effort is unsuccessful, she will run as a write-in candidate, she said.
“I am thankful and overwhelmed by the support I have received,” Miller said.
If no write-in candidate wins, the board would appoint a member.
Four other incumbents are seeking re-election including Pat Martino, Deborah Kedzior, Smith and William Pender. Newcomers are Hottinger, Phil Adair, Gregory Loock and Rhonda Starklauf.
Miller, who has served one term on the board, was seeking to fill a two-year vacancy left by the resignation of Sue Gilhooley. Broderick and Sanders both signed Smith’s nominating petition.