Washington Park Mayor Ann Rodgers claims St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert Haida and county Democrat chairman Robert Sprague kicked her off the village’s electoral board in order to control the April 4 election.
Rodgers sued the board “and the members purporting to be its members” in circuit court on Jan. 17, seeking to void the board’s actions of Jan. 4.
The board sustained an objection against Rodgers and denied an objection against opponent Rickie Thomas, the current village clerk.
Trustee candidates Shawn Newell, Marcus Henderson, Toni Whittaker and Herod Hill joined the suit, claiming the board improperly removed them from the ballot.
Attorney Eric Evans of Granite City wrote for the five petitioners that they believe Thomas “with assistance from Robert Sprague appeared before Judge Haida to change the composition of the electoral board.”
Evans wrote that a few weeks earlier, Thomas had tried to take control of the village board and install Sprague as village attorney.
Evans attached a “general administrative order” that Haida signed on Dec. 30, designating citizen Joan McIntosh as a board member.
“Joan McIntosh shall serve as chairperson of the board,” Haida wrote.
He wrote that he acted “upon verbal request by the election authority.”
He did not name an individual.
According to the suit, no one authorized such a request to Haida or anyone else.
The suit claims that late on the afternoon of Jan. 3, Rodgers received notice that the electoral board would hear objections at the courthouse the next morning, whereas, the proper electoral board planned to hear objections the next night.
Newell, Henderson, Whittaker and Hill allegedly received no notice.
The board at the morning meeting included McIntosh and trustees Clyde Jackson and Debbie Moore, the suit claims.
A proper board should have initially included Rodgers as president, Thomas as clerk, and James Madkins as longest serving trustee, it claims.
“The electoral board for hearings on objections to the office of president should have been James Madkins, Clyde Jackson and Debbie Moore, as Rodgers and Thomas as candidates for village president would have been disqualified,” the suit says.
“The electoral board for hearings on objections to candidates for the office of trustee should have been heard by Ann Rodgers, Rickie Thomas and either Clyde Jackson or Debbie Moore.”
Evans wrote that he and Rodgers appeared at the courthouse. The board refused to seat Rodgers and he objected.
“Upon a motion from Rickie Thomas’s attorney Robert Sprague, the electoral board disqualified Eric Evans as the attorney for Rodgers because he is the attorney for the village of Washington Park, even though attorney Sprague had no case authority to support his position,” the suit says.
Rodgers moved for a continuance to retain new counsel. And again, on a motion by Sprague, the board denied her request, the suit claims.
The McIntosh board not only removed Rodgers from the ballot but also denied an objection that Newell filed against Thomas.
The board sustained objections that McKinney filed against Newell, Henderson, Whittaker and Hill.
The board denied an objection that Rodgers filed against trustee candidate Ferris “Chilly” Williams.
Evans wrote that Rodgers was deprived of due process by his disqualification and by the failure to notify her of the verbal request to remove her.
The suit claims that failure to serve notice on Newell, Henderson, Whittaker and Hill violated their due process.
It further states that they couldn’t be present, have counsel present, make their cases, cross examine witnesses or otherwise participate.
Various witnesses who had been ordered to attend the hearing on the evening of Jan. 4 didn’t attend the hearing that morning, the suit claims.