Hughes weighing appeal to decision to boot her off April ballot

Three-member board says incumbent did not bind nominating papers

Janet Hughes said she is unsure if she will file an appeal of the Tuesday night decision from the Lemont-Bromberek Combined School District 113A Electoral Board to remove her from the April ballot because her nominating papers were not fastened, as required by Illinois Election Code.

The three-member electoral board was comprised of school board president Lisa Wright, senior board member John Wood and Nicholas Kefalos — a member of the public appointed by the chief judge of Cook County. The three came to a unanimous decision that there was not a paperclip on Hughes’ nominating papers when she filed for candidacy on the school board.

Per Illinois Election Code 10-4, “The petition sheet shall be neatly fastened together in book form and fastened together at one edge in a secure and suitable manner.”

Paul Chialdikas, a Village of Lemont trustee, and Jennifer Albrecht filed the objections to Hughes’ nominating papers. Albrecht is the daughter-in-law of former District 113A School Board member Al Albrecht, who is named in a lawsuit filed by Hughes accusing him and other District 113A officials of financial mismanagement.

Al Albrecht has another tie to Hughes as well. Three weeks after the April 2009 election Hughes was named to Al Albrecht’s seat on the District 113A School Board after officials results showed that she defeated him by just six votes.

During the hearing, Sandie Larek, administrative secretary to the District 113A superintendent, was called as a witness and stated that she accepted Hughes’ candidate nominating papers on Dec. 20. She said Hughes handed the papers to her unbound.

“I put them in a folder because they were loose so they would stay together,” Larek said.

Hughes took the stand and testified that she had used a large paperclip to hold her papers together. Hughes said when she gave her papers to Larek, Larek took off the paper clip to time stamp each page, and never re-fastened the clip.

Larek denied ever taking off a paperclip.

Another witness, school board candidate Michael Aurelio, said Hughes’ nominating papers appeared to be fastened when he filed for candidacy directly after Hughes.

“I had never filed before and was studying to see what happens because I had to do it next,” Aurelio said. “She had them in a clipboard that had a lid on it. She opened it up and all of them came out together. It appeared to be fastened.”

Aurelio added that he “didn’t recall” if Hughes had a paperclip fastening the papers.

Hughes’ attorney, Kory Atkinson, called for the dismissal of the objection until new electoral board members could be named.

“There is a pending lawsuit in which the candidate, (Hughes), and two members of the electoral board (Wright and Wood) are adversarial parties,” Atkinson said. “... It is possible those two parties on the board could gain an advantage. It creates a risk of bias.”

Wright and Wood responded that they have yet to be served with the lawsuit, and that they do not have a bias toward Hughes. The hearing then continued.

Wright stated her reasons for voting in favor of removing Hughes from the ballot.

“I have reviewed the nominating papers and I can see no evidence these were bound in any fashion,” Wright said. “I do not see any evidence that there was a pressure point (made by a tight clip).”

Hughes said she and her attorney will now review the testimony to determine whether she wants to appeal the ruling.