Not only will the election in Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 be uncontested, but the ballot will be one candidate short when voters go to the polls on April 5.
Two candidates for office, James A. Gross and Joseph J. Pizzuto, were thrown off the ballot last week after successful challenges made by current District 103 board member Stephen Mazur, who is running for another two-year term on the board.
Gross was stricken from the ballot after the Cook County Clerk’s office determined that he fell short of the required number of signatures to be placed on the ballot. Gross did not appeal the clerk’s ruling.
Then, last Thursday night, the District 103 Electoral Board of school board President Mark Rogers, Vice President Joanne Schaeffer and board member Roxanne Connolly voted 2-1 to remove Pizzuto from the ballot after some five hours of testimony by witnesses and deliberation. Connolly cast the dissenting vote. Connolly is Pizzuto’s mother.
Judith Petrucci, whose petitions were also challenged by Mazur, will remain on the ballot. An attorney, Petrucci also served as Pizzuto’s counsel during the hearing.
Thursday night’s hearing was not without intrigue. After hearing the testimony of several witnesses, both Rogers and Schaeffer contemplated recusing themselves from the board, after testimony they heard contradicted information they personally knew about the case.
Rogers had signed one of Pizzuto’s petitions, but noted that the portion of the petition asking to state the position for which Pizzuto was running was blank. Rogers was also in the company of Mazur when Mazur signed a petition for Pizzuto. In that case, the same line of the petition was blank, according to Rogers.
Schaeffer had also signed Pizzuto’s petition and noted the same problem.
During testimony last Thursday, Pizzuto said the petitions were completely filled out, while another petition circulator said he didn’t remember if the petitions had been filled out completely.
“I signed it, and I knew what they looked like,” Rogers said.
If both Rogers and Schaeffer would have recused themselves, a new board would have been appointed by Timothy Evans, chief judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County. Those board members would have been paid $200 an hour each.
Rather than face a prolonged and expensive process, however, Pizzuto allowed Petrucci to simply agree to abide by the ruling of the Electoral Board and waive rights to further appeal.
As a result of the ruling, the only two candidates running for the three open four-year spots on the board are Petrucci and Michele R. Visk. Mazur is the sole person running for the open two-year spot on the board.
After the election, the board will have to appoint someone to the open four-year spot unless someone mounts a write-in candidacy for the position.