Editor's note: This article was altered after publication to correct the spelling of Mary Beth Windberg's name.
Village board incumbents George Metanias, Joe Werner, John Mazzorana and Joe Siwinski will remain on the ballot in April’s election.
A meeting of the Mokena Officers Electoral Board was held Sunday to address recent objections to their petitions for candidacy.
The objections were filed by the Mokena Friends and Neighbors Candidates — a group of nonpartisan, non-incumbent candidates also running for various positions within the village. The Friends and Neighbors include Frank Fleischer, Jenifer Sciaky, Mary Beth Windberg, Vincent L. Di Fiore and Tony Bruozas.
The electoral board is comprised of Dan McGrath, Lawrence Gryczweski and Patrick Carey, who were appointed to their positions by the Chief Judge of Will County.
Metanias’ petition was challenged on the grounds that he withdrew the petition after filing it and then filed it again later on the same day.
The petitions filed by Werner, Siwinski and Mazzorana were challenged because the Friends and Neighbors claimed that none of the petitions contained the minimum number of signatures from registered voters who live in Mokena. For the 2012 election, village candidates are required to collect at least 223 valid signatures.
“I never thought I did anything wrong,” said Metanias, in an interview with Patch. “I didn’t withdraw my petitions. I didn’t walk out of the room”
During Sunday’s meeting, Karl Ottosen, the legal advisor for the Friends and Neighbors, called on Village Administrative Assistant and Deputy Clerk Judi Frieling and Village Board Candidate Tony Bruozas, each of whom was present when Metanias filed his petition.
Both Frieling and Bruozas said that Metanias took his petition back from the village clerk after filing it when he was told that he would have to be in a lottery due to a simultaneous filing. He then returned the petition within the following five to ten minutes, they said.
However, Doug Heathcock, the legal representative for the four incumbents, said the Friends and Neighbors failed to meet the findings of the burden of proof, meaning that there was not enough evidence presented to prove that Metanias’ actions were invalid.
“You haven’t heard that there was any alteration,” Heathcock said to the board. “You haven’t heard that a page was added. You haven’t heard that a page was withdrawn.”
The board denied the objection, with a 2-1 vote.
“We strongly disagree with the ruling that it was a proper thing for Mr. Metanias to take back his petition,” said Ottosen, after the meeting. “We’re disappointed in the decision here.”
The validity of numerous signatures appearing on petitions filed by Werner, Siwinski and Mazzorana was also questioned during the meeting. The signatures were examined for several reasons, including improperly listed addresses, inconsistent handwriting, the inclusion of signatures from residents who were not registered to vote and signer fraud.
“We believe that there were enough questionable signatures to at least bring the objection and let the board determine which ones were valid and which ones were not,” said Ottosen.
Although 28 signatures were removed from Werner’s petition during the electoral board meeting, the petition still included 238 valid signatures after the removal. The objection filed by the Friends and Neighbors was unanimously denied.
“You have to trust the process,” said Werner. “If there isn’t a process that you can live with, then you’re never going to be effective.”
Following the board’s denial of Werner’s objection, Ottosen voluntarily withdrew the objections to the petitions filed by Siwinski and Mazzorana. Ottosen told Patch that the objections were withdrawn because they were very similar to the objection filed against Werner.
The electoral board will officially deliver its findings to the candidates at a meeting at 6 p.m. on Jan 15.
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