This story originally was published Jan. 9, 2003 in the Braidwood Journal.
The second foot dropped in Braidwood’s petition problems on Tuesday when mayoral candidate Richard Girot was removed from the election ballot.
A 2-1 vote of Braidwood’s electoral board meant Girot became the third candidate in the past eight days to find himself off the Feb. 25 primary election ballot. On Dec. 30, mayoral candidate Wayne Saltzman and James Hutton, a candidate for commissioner of public buildings and property, also were removed by the board after their petitions did not conform with election guidelines.
Braidwood resident Kenneth Keith’s contest to Girot’s petitions noted a lack of binding on the petition paperwork and an incorrect date for the election on the petitions.
“[Candidates] have to comply with the simple requirements of the election code,” said Burton Odelson, an attorney representing Keith.
Girot’s attorney, Scott Pyles, argued that the discrepancies should be considered minor technical errors and did not warrant a mandatory elimination from ballots.
“All we’re talking about is screwing up on a date and whether it was bound by a paper clip,” Pyles told the board, which included City Clerk Sue Grygiel and commissioners Kay Heberer and Homer Cole.
Pyles indicated after the hearing that the case could be appealed in Will County court before the primary. A reversal means Girot would be placed back on the primary ballot.
Primary date listed
A petition packet filed for office in Braidwood includes a copy of a receipt, a statement of economic interest filed with Will County, a statement of candidacy, petitions of nominations, form D-5 and a signed code of fair campaign practices.
In Braidwood, a candidate must compile 12 signatures to be considered for the ballot. In Girot’s case, there were three pages worth of signatures but no paper ever listed the date of the election.
Instead of the Feb. 25 primary date, Girot listed Jan. 27. That date marks the deadline for voter registration in the primary, not the primary itself.
“He asked to be put on the ballot for a date on which there was no election,” said Odelson. “…If you don’t do it right, you don’t have the right to ballot access.”
Pyles, who said his client saw the date on a handout given by Grygiel and put the date down on accident, admitted the date was an error but said it did not mislead anyone who signed Girot’s petition or Grygiel herself.
“She knew what election this belonged to,” he said. “They’re not misleading to the clerk.”
Most of the two-and-one-half-hour hearing consisted of arguments involving whether the petitions were bound sufficiently.
Grygiel, who moved down the table in Braidwood City Hall and was sworn in as a witness, testified Girot’s papers were not bound in any way when the former mayor turned in his packet. Grygiel said she later used a paper clip to make sure the papers stayed together.
The Illinois election code states that petitions must be bound, like a book, when turned in for office.
Girot testified that he handed Grygiel the papers with a paperclip attached, and she later stapled the papers in the top center portion of the paperwork. Under cross-examination, Odelson revealed none of the papers showed signs of stapling.
Pyles called the paperclip an act of substantial compliance, which would mean that it wouldn’t be enough to remove Girot from the ballot.
“Let’s let the voters decide who is going to be the mayor … not some technicalities,” said Pyles, who formerly served Braidwood as city attorney.
Pyles went on to bring both Hutton and Saltzman to the stand in an attempt to reveal Grygiel’s memory of paperclips was faulty. She recalled both former candidates did not use paperclips, while both men testified they did use the metallic devices to hold their petitions together.
Odelson said whether the paperclips were present or not, they still do not constitute proper binding.
“Bound does not mean a paper clip in this case,” said Odelson. “We don’t make exceptions for a special few.”
Pyles countered some of the questions of technicality by bringing up other aspects of the petition process. He asked for much of the information be “on the record,” most likely in the event the case were appealed.
Those points included Police Chief Rob Andreina serving the petition objections instead of the mandated county sheriff’s representative.
The board deliberated for 20 minutes before delivering their vote, with Cole as the dissenting vote. The race for mayor now stands as incumbent Harvey Taylor versus Chuck Holloway, with no need for the Feb. 25 primary.