Utica trustee Debbie Krizel to stay on April 6 ballot

Electoral panel votes 3-0 to dismiss challenge against her

Debbie Krizel will stay on the April 6 ballot for Utica Village Board. On Wednesday, the incumbent trustee withstood a challenge to her nominating forms.

A three-member panel ruled 3-0 at a Wednesday hearing that Krizel’s nominating papers will stand despite her failure to number her papers as spelled out in the election code.

“I’m glad the board of electors investigated and validated my petition,” Krizel, reading from a prepared statement, said after the 45-minute hearing. “I’m thankful that we have an election process that ensures technical errors do not prevent good candidates from the ballot.

“I look forward to the upcoming election as I continue to serve the people of Utica as a present trustee.”

Wednesday’s ruling marks the end of a short-lived bid to strike Mayor David Stewart, Krizel and fellow trustee Mary Pawlak from the ballot. Initially, objectors Daniel Hackney and Sean Whitfield, neither of whom were present Wednesday, argued that the three candidates completed the wrong forms. Later, they dropped the objections to Stewart and Pawlak and pressed only the objection to Krizel.

Their lawyer, Perry Abbasi, issued an updated filing against Krizel, in which he cited cases where courts ruled that numbering is mandatory.

“In the present case, [Krizel] not only failed to number her petition sheets consecutively, but she failed to number them at all,” Abbasi wrote.

But they relied on a different precedent, one issued by the Third District Appellate Court, which governs La Salle County. In that case, the court decided lack of numbering was a “technical violation” that didn’t merit removal from the ballot. Notably, the candidate in that case had a much larger set of pages – 48 – than the three pages Krizel filed.

The Utica panelists also decided there was no evidence of fraud or tampering, and Krizel’s signatories all were recognized as residents of the village.

“I don’t believe there was any intent to deceive, and I don’t believe there was any confusion,” panelist John Schweickert said.

Panelists Jamie Turczyn and Nate Holland joined in the decision to deny the objection and let Krizel remain on the ballot.

Hackney and Whitfield now have five days to challenge Wednesday’s ruling. Neither has responded to queries from Shaw Media. Abbasi, reached by telephone after the hearing, said he disagreed with the ruling but said he had not yet discussed with Hackney and Whitfield whether to dispute the outcome in a court of law.

Assuming the objectors do not further pursue the matter, Utica voters will fill three seats on the Utica Village Board. The field of five candidates includes Krizel, Pawlak, incumbent Jim Schrader and newcomers Chad McConville and Karen Lorenz. There were no challenges filed against Schrader or the newcomers.

Stewart has a challenger in Utica businessman Tracy Mix.

Stewart thanked the electoral panel as well as his lawyer, La Salle attorney Tom McClintock, who represented him at an earlier stage of the proceedings. He also thanked the Utica community at large for the “very nice” support given during the electoral challenge.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.