Final decisions expected on at hearings to be held on January 18 and 23
O’FALLON – Arguments were made by all parties in a pair of hearings to decide whether or not the current City Treasurer and a sitting Alderman can remain on the April 2017 ballot.
The hearing, which was held on January 11, allowed the objectors to state their case and the two officials to refute the allegations. Treasurer David Hursey’s petitions are being objected to by O’Fallon resident Frank Morski, while Ward 5 Alderman Chris Hursey faces an objection by Tom Kelley and his attorney Brian Flynn of Belleville.
The first hearing, which addressed Chris Hursey’s petitions, began with Flynn stating the basis for his client’s objection. Kelley contends that Chris Hursey didn’t properly label that he was running for the two-year term in Ward 5 on his paperwork and that it could cause confusion by the voters, as the other alderman seat in Ward 5 is up for election to a four-year term.
“In order to get on the ballot, Mr. Hursey needed to specify what office he was running for. This year in Ward 5 there is a four-year term and an unexpired two-year term. The only place he put anything about the two-year seat is on his Statement of Candidacy. Simply saying you’re running for Alderman is not sufficient,” Flynn said. “He is obligated to say whether he is running for the four-year seat or two-year seat and he simply says nothing.”
Chris Hursey is represented by attorney Terry Bruckert. Bruckert countered saying that Chris Hursey had explained to the nearly 30 residents who signed his petitions that he was running to fill the unexpired term of office created when former Alderman Mike Bennett retired. Chris Hursey, under oath, testified that he actually told each signer what the situation was with the seat he currently holds.
“I only needed between 16 and 25 signatures, so I circulated all of my own petitions. I walked around my neighborhood and the neighborhood adjacent to mine and had a conversation with everyone that signed or chose not to sign. I let them know I was the incumbent for the remainder of the four year term and that I would be running for the unexpired two year term,” Chris Hursey said. “I told that to everyone who signed my petitions verbally and I believe that was sufficient to make sure no one was confused.”
Bruckert did produce seven sworn affidavits from people who had signed Chris Hursey’s petitions saying that they were told he was running for the unexpired two year term.
“There was no ambiguity, no confusion. They knew what he was running for,” Bruckert said.
A decision on Chris Hursey’s petitions is expected to be handed down at a hearing to take place on Wednesday, January 18, at City Hall.
The second hearing focused on David Hursey’s petitions and began with Morski providing his reasoning for objecting. Not only did Morski object to specific signatures he believes are invalid because they are printed and not signed in cursive, he also believes the number of signatures David Hursey obtained is incorrect and short of what was needed. Morski contends that David Hursey should have had to have obtained five to eight percent of the number of signatures as voters that participated in the election the last time his position was up, not just the last municipal election. Morski said more voters took part in the 2013 election than the 2015 election, meaning David Hursey would have to obtain at least 315 signatures, far more than he obtained based off of the 2015 numbers.
“Even if the clerk gives out the wrong numbers, the candidates are required to submit the number of signatures set forth by the statutes. In this particular case, he is far short of the minimum number, with the minimum number determined by the 2013 election and not the 2015 election. Because the last time the office was contested was in 2013 and that had over 6,000 voters and the minimum number would be 315. That would mean Mr. Hursey falls short even before we get to the objections regarding the number of insufficient signatures and printed names,” Morski said.
Bruckert is also representing David Hursey and presented case law allowing the printed signatures. Additionally, he also presented case law from 2013 allowing candidates to rely on a clerk’s information as it pertained to the number of signatures needed on petitions.
“It’s a fundamental principle that access to a place on a ballot is a substantial right and not lightly to be denied,” Bruckert said. “David Hursey has testified that he relied on the information just as he had in prior elections. To deny Mr. Hursey a place on the ballot as a result of his reliance based upon information provided to him by the City Clerk would not only penalize David Hursey, but also the voters of the city of O’Fallon and create an injustice not intended by the election code,” Bruckert said.
The election board will decide what will happen to David Hursey’s petitions at a hearing to be held on January 23 at City Hall.