We’re not sure what a contested election does to people in North Riverside, but it’s unlike any other town we cover when it comes to the embarrassing lengths partisans will go to smear their opponents to gain a perceived edge.

The village board meeting on March 1 was the most recent jaw-dropper. We’re not sure what the most remarkable moment was – the mayor reading a letter from a waste hauling executive complaining about a trustee’s husband “harassing” him and his staff, a former mayor asking the village attorney whether he thought that trustee was a criminal or the trustee accusing the acting village administrator of committing a crime by accepting a stipend that no one objected to a year ago when it was given.

Imagine being a North Riverside resident witnessing this.

Certainly, Trustee Marybelle Mandel knows that the long-entrenched political majority in town sees her as a real threat in her run for mayor – one made more real by the presence of two former political allies who are also running and who may split the vote and open the door for Mandel’s victory.

She is hurt and feels harassed herself, because of the revelation brought to light late last year that she was involved – though not accused of wrongdoing or charged with any crime – in a fraud scheme that landed her husband with a federal conviction in 2000 for making a false statement to a financial institution.

That’s a long time ago and it may seem unfair for her opponents to keep bringing this up, particularly at a village board meeting, but it’s a reality Mandel needs to accept. Her husband’s past is what it is.

It does not help her case with voters when he then lashes out as he apparently did with the waste hauling executive, who took the extraordinary action of writing a formal letter of complaint, in which the executive also accused Mandel’s husband of threatening that his wife would get rid of the waste hauling company if she were elected.

Trustee Mandel called that accusation “a lie,” and the executive did not respond to the Landmark’s calls asking for more information, but it leaves us wondering why a village vendor would feel so threatened he would lodge a formal complaint and apparently ask that it be read aloud at a village board meeting.

Long story short, it’s not a good look.

Perhaps the most stunning moment, however, was for a sitting elected official to accuse the village’s top administrative employee of committing a crime – essentially stealing money from the village.

“Now that’s a crime,” Trustee Mandel said, referencing a $1,000 per week stipend being given to Administrator Sue Scarpiniti for taking on the job of acting administrator while retaining her role as finance director. The plan to pay Scarpiniti more money to take on the job was implemented a year ago, without objection.

Accusing people of crimes is serious business, and we’re frankly surprised those accusations are being tossed around so casually, especially when it comes to elected officials accusing village employees.