Ann Maher Jan. 17, 2013, 12:03pm

Troy resident Keith Melton is challenging a recent decision by a panel of Jarvis Township officials that knocked him off the ballot for the April 9 election of Township Supervisor.

Melton said he filed nomination papers in December seeking to run against longtime Supervisor Alan Dunstan - who also serves as Madison County Board Chairman - but Dunstan challenged Melton’s nomination. Dunstan’s objection, which was sustained by the panel on Jan. 9, maintains that Melton failed to file a receipt with the clerk of Jarvis Township that proved he filed a statement of economic interest with the clerk of Madison County.

A complaint filed Monday in Madison County Circuit Court says the decision made by the three-member election board of Jarvis Township – Virgil Gebhart, Barbara Wright and Robert Stonecipher – is “against the manifest weight of the evidence and should be reversed.”

On Wednesday, Melton said he blamed the “Dunstan machine” for the "unfair" decision. He said he followed filing instructions provided to him by the Jarvis Township clerk.

His suit claims that his nomination papers substantially complied with election laws and that his failure to file the receipt with the Jarvis Township clerk was “inadvertent and unintentional.”

“No party has been prejudiced by the Petitioner’s failure to file this receipt,” the complaint states.

Melton is asking the court to reverse the election board’s decision so that his name can appear on the April 9 ballot for Supervisor.

Dunstan has been contacted for comment but has not returned a phone call placed to his office on Wednesday afternoon.

Melton said he filed his nomination papers on the first day of the registration period in hopes of having his name appear first on the ballot. In municipal elections, candidates do not run on party platforms.

He said he gathered approximately 68 signatures – an amount above the minimum and not above the maximum number. He also said he was careful to confirm that each person who signed his petition was a registered voter and a resident of Jarvis Township.

Melton, 54, is for the first time seeking public office. He is a computer analyst with SSM Integrated Health Technologies and a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant.

After retiring from the Air Force, where he served as a police officer for 11 of 21 years, he decided to make Troy his permanent home with his wife Reka.

He and his family are members of First Baptist Church in Maryville, where in 2009 Pastor Fred Winters was shot to death. During the incident, Melton and a fellow parishioner were responsible for wrestling the shooter to the ground and subduing him until police arrived. Melton and Terry Bullard were stabbed by the shooter while trying to restrain him.

Melton said he had considered running for office for many years – a desire that had been interrupted by the church shooting.

“I struggled with that whole thing,” he said. “I’m still dealing with it.”

But, for now, he said he “feels ready” to be a public servant.

Asbestos attorney John Simmons

Though his attorney is not recognized as an election law heavyweight, Melton, nonetheless, is being represented by one of the more renowned asbestos attorneys in the country - John Simmons.

Melton said Simmons, whose firm is headquartered in Alton, reached out to him as a fellow veteran. Simmons, according to his web page, had served in the U.S. Army before going on to establish a national asbestos firm.

“He saw this as a wrong that needed to be right,” Melton said.

The case filed on Monday against the electoral board members and Dunstan bears Simmons’ signature, unusual in that Simmons rarely appears in Madison County, according to court observers.

Simmons and lawyers at his firm, however, are no strangers to the political arena, as they frequently make significant contributions to local, state and national candidates and committees.

Last week, Simmons individually contributed $20,000 to the Madison County Central Democratic Campaign Committee. His firm contributed $20,000 and partner Perry Browder contributed $10,000 to the committee.

Melton’s case filed in the court's Miscellaneous Remedies division is assigned to Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder.

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