The Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 Electoral Board upheld an objection at a hearing Feb. 16 to nominating petitions filed by one of the candidates in the district’s April school board elections, effectively leaving all six open seats on the board uncontested.

The objection, brought by district resident Lisa Vallejo, alleged that candidate Mark Hebenstreit filled out his petitions incorrectly when he failed to indicate whether he was running for a two- or four-year term. On the petition form there is a space for candidates to circle which term they are running for; Hebenstreit left that section blank.

Seats with both term lengths are up for election in April. In addition to four regular four-year seats, there are also a pair of two-year terms, unexpired seats to be filled after board members Humberto Andrade and Michelle Visk resigned since the last election in 2005.

At the hearing, Vallejo’s lawyer, Mark Camasta, said that while the omission on Hebenstreit’s petitions may seem like a minor technicality, it actually had important implications for the people who signed his petitions and his opponents.

Voters are only allowed to sign one nominating petition per race, and if a petition doesn’t specify which term is being sought they may inadvertently also sign a petition for that candidate’s opponent. The clarification also must be made for other candidates in order to know exactly who their opponents are.

“This isn’t a technicality, it’s a law,” Camasta said, addressing the electoral board. “[To not specify a term] is unfair to the signatories, to you and to other candidates.”

Camasta also noted that Hebenstreit had not indicated which term he was seeking on his statement of candidacy, a separate form candidates have to file with the Cook County Clerk’s office. On it, Hebenstreit simply wrote that he was running for the office of “school board trustee.”

Because of those omissions, the electoral board, made up of school board President Joanne Schaeffer, Vice President Stephen Mazur and Secretary Greg Frana, voted unanimously to uphold the objection. This invalidated all of Hebenstreit’s nominating petitions, removing him from the ballot.

Matt Delort, the district’s attorney who specializes in election law, said this was the typical outcome for such objections.

“This is about the twentieth case of this I’ve seen in 20 years of law, and the result is always the same,” he said.

For his part, Hebenstreit acknowledged that he had filled out his petitions incorrectly, but maintained that there were underlying political motivations for the objection that was brought against him. Hebenstreit, who has lived in Lyons for the past 15 years and has never attempted to run for public office before, said that he had indicated to a secretary that he was running for one of the two-year seats when he filed his petitions.

“I think I got railroaded,” he said. “I think there were reasons why people may have orchestrated this to get me out of the race.”

As evidence, Hebenstreit pointed to a phone call he received on Feb. 13 from Mazur, during which Mazur told him he would be voting to sustain the objection at the hearing.

“He wouldn’t say why. He just said he ‘had to,'” said Hebenstreit, who asked Mazur to recuse himself at the beginning of the hearing because of his comments on the phone.

Mazur did not recuse himself, but admitted to making the phone call. He said he wasn’t motivated by politics, however, but by his personal friendship with Hebenstreit.

“He is a friend of mine, but I didn’t feel that I could have voted for him just because of that,” Mazur said. “I didn’t break any rules. I just wanted to give him a heads up.”

Despite his feelings on the board’s motives, Hebenstreit said he does not plan on appealing the ruling.

As a result of Hebenstreit’s removal from the ballot, the race for the six open seats on the board has been left uncontested. The two unexpired terms are being sought by Lyons resident Sharon Anderson, who was appointed to fill the outgoing Visk’s seat last fall, and Stickney resident Wendy Pelletiere.

The remaining four seats are being sought by incumbents, including Schaeffer, Frana, Mazur and Deanna Huxhold.