Rocco Desantis Candidate for mayor

A North Riverside resident with ties to the VIP Party rang in the New Year by filing objections to the nominating petitions of independent mayoral candidate George Georgopoulos and the entire slate of candidates nominated by the Transparency and Accountability in Politics (TAP) Party.

John Beresheim, chairman of the village’s plan commission who was re-appointed to a three-year term by Mayor Ken Krochmal in June 2011, filed his objections on Dec. 31, 2012.

A local electoral board comprising Mayor Ken Krochmal, Clerk Queenella Miller and Trustee Thomas Corgiat will weigh the objections at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 2 p.m. in the council chambers of the North Riverside Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave.

The electoral board met briefly Monday night and continued the hearing in order to allow attorneys to file preliminary motions and work out the issuance of subpoenas to people they want to call to testify.

Beresheim in 2009 objected to an entire slate of candidates challenging VIP that year. Beresheim’s attorney is John Toman, the former Riverside Township Democratic committeeman, who also served as his lawyer for his petition objections in 2009.

He was successful in getting all of those candidates, which included Georgopoulos, tossed off the ballot. Krochmal, Miller and Corgiat are all VIP Party members and were elected in 2009. The attorney for the electoral board is R. Peter Grometer, a retired Illinois Appellate Court judge.

The only non-VIP candidate whose nominating petitions went unchallenged this year is independent trustee candidate Richard Alvarez.

Rocco DeSantis, who is running for mayor on the TAP slate, said he wasn’t surprised by the challenge, but he denounced it during a phone interview last week.

“They are scared to death,” said DeSantis, who won election as village trustee in 2011 as an independent. “They’ll do anything to get me off the ballot.”

DeSantis is being represented at the hearing by attorney Richard Means.

In his objection to DeSantis’ candidacy, Beresheim claims that DeSantis remains a sworn police officer on disability pension, which disqualifies him to run as president, “unless he is granted leave of absence.”

DeSantis’ standing as a police officer running for municipal office in a partisan election also runs afoul of the federal Hatch Act, according to Beresheim. He claims that being a police officer and being mayor would be incompatible offices.

The same laws, presumably, would have prevented DeSantis from running for village trustee in 2011. His candidacy was not challenged during that election.

Though he is receiving a disability pension, DeSantis disputed the notion that he’s an active police officer.

“I am disabled with over 30 years of service,” said DeSantis. “If that’s still the case, they owe me five years of raises.”

DeSantis also argued that if he were an active police officer, he could legally carry a gun without having to qualify to carry one every year. He no longer carries a gun, he said, because of that restriction.

Beresheim, meanwhile, contends that TAP trustee candidate Marybelle Mandel won’t have lived in North Riverside for one year prior to the election as the law states. Mandel’s attorney is Larry Zdarsky.

Mandel lists her address in the 2500 block of 6th Avenue. According to records obtained from the Cook County Clerk’s Office, she changed her voter registration to that address in September 2012.

Prior to that date, Mandel was registered to vote at an address in the 3800 block of Wenonah Avenue in Berwyn. She reportedly voted from that address during the 2012 primary election.

When she may have actually changed residences is not clear. A check of property records indicates that the Berwyn property is owned by Violet Mandel and has not changed hands in many years.

The North Riverside property is held in a real estate trust. However, a lien was placed against David Mandel and the real estate trust at the property in November. The real estate trust was created in 1996 when the owner of the home was Ann Santos. David Mandel prepared the trust document at that time, according to records obtained from the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.

DeSantis called the objection to Mandel’s candidacy “absurd.”

Finally, Beresheim is objecting to all of TAP’s candidates on the grounds that the party’s stated name is too long. According to the election code, new political parties cannot have names that are more than five words long.

“The name Transparency & Accountability in Politics Party contains six words,” says Berersheim.

DeSantis waved off that objection stating the word “party” couldn’t reasonably be considered part of TAP’s name.

“Is it the Democratic Party Party?” DeSantis said. “It doesn’t make sense at all.”

As for Georgopoulos, Beresheim has objected to his nomination papers because the individual signature pages weren’t numbered. There is a space at the bottom of each page that is supposed to be numbered, and Georgopoulos failed to do so.

“I was rushed a bit between work, kids and politics,” said Georgopoulos, who personally circulated all of his petitions. “It’s ridiculous. All the signatures are valid, every single one.”

On Monday, Georgopoulos said he won’t fight the ruling of the electoral board and said he’s not going to the expense of hiring an attorney. Even if he’s thrown off the ballot, Georgopoulos said he’s not going away.

“There’s a campaign afoot for me running as a write-in,” said Georgopoulos. “I have the residents behind me. I made a mistake [with the petitions], but it’s not the end of me. I’m a fighter.”

In a separate interview last week, Georgopoulos blasted VIP for looking to eliminate its competition through technicalities.

“Something else is going on,” he said. “It’s all about the millions of dollars they’re going to lose.”

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