Two Cents Worth – The ongoing saga of petition challenges needs a resolution

Two Cents Column

Just when you thought the drama surrounding the nominating petitions of an alderman and the city treasurer was over, it resurfaces, this time with even more vigor. If you haven’t been following the saga since mid-December, allow me to briefly catch you up.

Ward 5 Alderman Chris Hursey was appointed to replace Alderman Mike Bennett when Bennett bought a house outside of O’Fallon city limits and had to step down. Chris has to run in the April election for the last two years of what would have been Bennett’s four year term. However, when he circulated his petitions, Chris only stated he was running for “Alderman Ward 5” and not “Alderman Ward 5, unexpired two-year term”. Enter Tom Kelley and his attorney Brian Flynn. Kelley contends that by not specifying that he is running for the two year term, Chris incorrectly filled out his paperwork and should be stricken from the ballot.

A city electoral board, made up of Mayor Gary Graham, City Clerk Phil Goodwin, and senior Alderman Jerry Albrecht ruled that Chris could remain on the ballot. However, Mr. Kelley has opted to appeal that ruling and has filed a petition for judicial review with the circuit court.

At the same time Chris Hursey is facing challenges, the city treasurer, David Hursey, is dealing with his own problems. Frank Morski has challenged David’s petitions contending that David did not obtain the proper amount of signatures. David says he obtained the amount instructed to him by the City Clerk, but Morski says that amount is incorrect and based off of the wrong election cycle. Again, a city electoral board, made up of Mayor Graham, Alderman Albrecht, and Alderman Gene McCoskey found that David could remain of the ballot. As of Monday, it is believed Mr. Morski has also filed for a petition of judicial review at the circuit court.

The people of Ward 5 and the city of O’Fallon deserve for this show to finally come to a conclusion. Early voting will be starting in late February in St. Clair County and ballots must be finalized. The county clerk told me that he will be preparing ballots based off the assumption the two Hurseys will be on the ballot, but if they are thrown off, anyone who votes early and for them will have those votes disregarded. Additionally, ballots would need to be reprinted prior to the April 4 election, which would be a big waste of money.

Chris Hursey has expressed concern about his chances at the circuit court. His opponent, Andrew Lopinot, is the son of Judge Vincent J. Lopinot, while his objector, Tom Kelley, is the son of Associate Judge Randall W. Kelley. One would hope those familial ties will not play into account, but given the reputation of the courts in St. Clair County, one can’t be certain they won’t. Even if the case isn’t heard by either judge, how friendly are they with the presiding judge?

Theoretically if things don’t go well at the circuit court, the Hurseys could appeal to the Appellate Court in Mt. Vernon. However, by then it will be early March and there won’t be much campaigning time left.

We don’t fault Mr. Kelley and Mr. Morski for filing objections to the petitions. It is their constitutional right to do so. And it is their right to appeal the decision of the city electoral board. However, we have to ask at what point is enough enough and when should the voters be allowed to pick the winner? And in the case of the treasurer, given that David is the only candidate, we fail to see an end game with getting him kicked off the ballot.

It’s been a rollercoaster of drama, but honestly, I think there’s been enough twists and turns. My stomach is getting queasy and it’s time to get off and take a moment to relax.