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8 Districts organizer points to mayor over petition objection

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 9:36 p.m. CDT

JOLIET – An organizer of the Joliet For Eight Districts proposed referendum is accusing the mayor of supplying digital copies of signature sheets to the woman who filed an objection to the ballot initiative.

Richard Rodriguez of Concerned Citizens of Joliet said Thursday he thinks Mayor Tom Giarrante released copies of the group’s petition sheets to Sarah Andreano, the woman who filed the objection to the referendum earlier this week.

“This is a desperate ploy by Mayor Giarrante to prevent the will of the people,” Rodriguez said.

Giarrante denied any involvement.

“I did not send the information to Sarah Andreano,” Giarrante said. “I sent copies of the information home for me to read. It was 305 pages long.”

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Rodriguez obtained copies of city email messages regarding the redistricting petitions from Aug. 4, the day the petitions were filed with the city clerk, through Aug. 8.

The request generated 24 pages of documents – which Rodriguez said included one where Giarrante distributed a copy of the petitions to his campaign email account at 7:01 a.m. Aug. 5.

Rodriguez maintains that petition papers eventually made their way from Giarrante’s private email account to Andreano, although he has no direct evidence showing what, if anything, Giarrante did with the email once it was in his personal account.

Giarrante said he is neutral on the Eight Districts proposition, which would change the City Council structure from five district and three at-large seats – a format that has been in place since the 1950s – to eight district seats.

“I don’t have a horse in this race,” Giarrante said. “This does not affect me at all. I run citywide.”

Giarrante noted that all information submitted for the referendum already was accessible by the public.

City Clerk Christa Desiderio said digital copies of the petition were distributed to Giarrante, members of the City Council and City Attorney Jeff Plyman. Rodriguez obtained a FOIA digital copy.

Desiderio said she was not aware of anyone coming to the clerk’s office to view the documents in person.

Rodriguez also had a message for Judge Dinah Lennon Archambeault. Andreano is listed as Archambeault’s campaign chairwoman on the Illinois State Board of Elections website.

“Archambeault ... has the opportunity to do what is right,” Rodriguez said. “She should call her campaign manager today and ask her to drop the political dog-and-pony show.”

Archambeault, in a statement emailed Wednesday, said, “I take no position with respect to the referendum or the challenge to the referendum petitions.”

Archambeault, a Will County associate judge, is running as a Republican for circuit judge in the Nov. 4 election. She will face Democrat Dan Kennedy, a Joliet attorney, on the ballot.

Andreano’s objections maintain the petition papers contain forged signatures, illegible or incomplete signatures and incomplete or missing addresses, as well as petitioners who are not registered voters or Joliet residents.

Andreano has not responded this week to multiple requests for comment.

The city electoral board is scheduled to consider the objection issue at 3 p.m. Monday.

Giarrante, who sits on the board with Desiderio and At-Large Councilman Mike Turk, said the board will set up ground rules and possibly a date for a final evidentiary hearing.

Members of city staff, along with advocates and opponents of the referendum petition, then will meet with members of the Will County Clerk’s office to determine the validity of the document’s approximately 2,440 signatures.

The electoral board will rule based on their findings. The matter must be resolved by Aug. 28 in order for the measure to be placed on the November ballot.

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