Rocco DeSantis, one of two mayoral candidates barred from the spring ballot by a local electoral board on Jan. 17, announced on Monday that he will fight that ruling all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, if necessary.
DeSantis, who heads a slate of candidates disqualified from running last week, said he will appeal the North Riverside electoral board’s ruling to Cook County Circuit Court. If the local decision is upheld there, DeSantis said he’ll appeal that, too.
“I’m very confident,” said DeSantis, a former police officer who was elected village trustee in 2011. “And I have no problem, if something happens at the circuit court, to take it to the appellate court.
“I’m going all the way with this.”
DeSantis said he huddled with the rest of the slate nominated by the newly formed Transparency and Accountability in Politics Party (TAP) after the electoral board’s ruling on Jan. 17. The slate also includes clerk candidate Peter Culafic, who is a retired police officer, and trustee candidates Annabelle Downs, Marybelle Meindl and Luigi “Gino” Labellarte.
He said all of the slate’s candidates are committed to fighting the local ruling.
“Everyone knows the cost involved,” said DeSantis. “Everyone knows this is part of the game — to exhaust your funds and stop you from campaigning.”
DeSantis said the slate will continue to campaign while fighting the electoral board’s decision, holding a fundraiser, passing out political pamphlets and going door to door to meet with voters.
“People are more motivated,” he said.
At a hearing that lasted a little more than two minutes on Jan. 17, the North Riverside electoral board voted unanimously to disqualify six candidates from appearing on the April 2013 ballot.
The electoral board, comprising Mayor Ken Krochmal, Clerk Queenella Miller and Trustee Thomas Corgiat sustained the objections made by North Riverside resident John Beresheim to the nominating petitions of independent mayoral candidate George Georgopoulos and the entire slate of candidates nominated by TAP, headed by DeSantis.
DeSantis reacted to the vote by immediately standing up and accusing the electoral board of playing politics.
“Go back to Australia where the kangaroos are,” said DeSantis, who sat directly in front of Krochmal at the hearing, just a few feet away.
All of the members of the electoral board are members of the VIP Party, which, as it stands now, has a virtual lock on the ballot. The only non-VIP candidate remaining on the ballot is independent trustee candidate Richard Alvarez, who is aligned with Georgopoulos. Alvarez’s nominating papers were not challenged.
VIP has nominated Hubert Hermanek Jr. for mayor, Kathy Ranieri for clerk and Matthew Decosola, Vera Wilt and Joseph Megoni for trustee.
Krochmal declined to elaborate on his reasons for sustaining Beresheim’s objections. The electoral board’s rulings were laid out in two separate documents, which determined that Georgopoulos’ and TAP’s nominating petitions were defective.
But on Monday at the end of North Riverside’s village board meeting, Krochmal blasted DeSantis’ statements during and after the electoral board hearing.
Asked on Jan. 17 by the Landmark about appealing the electoral board’s ruling in court, DeSantis said, “I don’t want to run from a bunch of thieves, because their backs are against the wall, too. Someone’s got to put them in jail, and it’s going to be me.”
Krochmal on Monday publicly and angrily demanded to know from DeSantis what he or the other members of the electoral board stole from the village and when DeSantis was showing up at his house to arrest him.
DeSantis responded that his remarks referred to the practice of making village health care coverage available to elected officials. He called the practice a “misappropriation of funds.”
“There is no ordinance on it, there’s no board vote on it and there’s no minutes on it,” DeSantis said. “So if you did it, you did it illegal.”
DeSantis added that he would be forwarding his complaint to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Krochmal earlier this year conducted his own investigation into alleged improper conduct by DeSantis and reportedly forwarded the results of his investigation to the state’s attorney’s office.
“I’ve told you repeatedly that you do not bully or intimidate people,” Krochmal said. “You will speak with respect to the residents, speak with respect to the department heads, to employees and to the members of this board. I don’t care what you think of me, but you will speak respectfully and honor the position.”
All of TAP’s candidates were disqualified, ruled the electoral board, because the name of the political party was one word too long. Election law states that political party names can only be five words long. The electoral board ruled that TAP’s official name was six words long and included the word “party” in its official designation.
In addition, the board ruled that DeSantis, who is an elected trustee of the village board, was not eligible to run for mayor because he is on a duty-related disability pension and is, therefore, eligible to return to his job as a police officer.
The electoral board also ruled that, as mayor, DeSantis would “consider public policy decisions that could directly impact his rights as a police officer and his disability benefits” and “may be called upon to consider and vote on policies and agreements that relate to the rights and duties of police officers.”
The ruling was silent on the fact that DeSantis already does this as an elected trustee. The board, including DeSantis, recently voted to approve a new employment contract for police officers.
The electoral board also believed TAP village trustee candidate Marybelle Mandel was not eligible to be on the ballot because she would not have lived in North Riverside for one year prior to the April 9, 2013 election.
In its ruling on Mandel’s eligibility, the electoral board weighed voter registration records and water department records to conclude Mandel did not live at the North Riverside address she claimed to inhabit.
Reached on Monday, Georgopoulos said he would not appeal the electoral board’s ruling in circuit court. The board disqualified Georgopoulos for failing to number the pages of his nominating petitions.
“Rules are rules,” said Georgopoulos. “I screwed up, and I’ll go along with that.”
However, Georgopoulos left the door open to a run as a write-in candidate. That may hinge on what happens with DeSantis’ circuit court appeal. Georgopoulos indicated that if DeSantis’ name is restored to the ballot, he might sit out the election. If DeSantis is kept off the ballot, he could decide to run as a write-in.
“If [DeSantis’] name gets on the ballot, he has a greater chance,” said Georgopoulos.