No McHenry County school board candidates kicked off ballot

Eight objections were struck down by an electoral board last week

Election 2024
McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio listens to attorneys speak during a hearing of McHenry County Electoral Board on Monday, March 28, 2022, at the McHenry County Administration Building in Woodstock. The hearing is the result of an objection filed the week prior by William Brogan and Joel Brumlik disputing Tony Colatorti's qualifications to run for the position of McHenry County sheriff.

Despite eight objections filed against McHenry County school board hopefuls, no candidates were kicked off the ballot after a hearing on Friday.

In a nearly five-hour meeting on Friday, an electoral board consisting of McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio; Robin Shetley, chief deputy from the McHenry County Circuit Court; and Tom Cahill with the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office heard each case and determined none of the candidates should be removed from the ballot.

All eight objections were filed on Dec. 29, the last day to file, and included questions about signatures, documents being improperly filled out, notary discrepancies, and incorrect information on statements of economic interest.

The objections come ahead of the April 4 election, which will have 19 school districts on the ballot across McHenry County, a dozen of which are expected to be competitive. In total, more than 100 candidates are running.

Trout Valley resident Bruce Johnson filed objections against three Cary School District 26 candidates, Deanna Darling, Jason Janczak and Kathryn Potter, focused on the validity of signatures.

Crystal Lake resident Frederick Bock filed similar complaints for two Prairie Grove School District 46 candidates, Stephanie Housh and Josie Shattuck, both of whom are incumbents.

In addition to questioning signatures, Bock also argued that Housh’s documents were notarized with an expired stamp, but Housh at Friday’s hearing provided documents that showed the notary’s license wasn’t expired. Bock was also unable to show any legal precedent that an expired stamp who invalidate someone’s candidacy.

After the electoral board went through a number of signatures brought into question, the group ruled each candidate had the necessary number of signatures needed to stay on the ballot.

“We’re just trying to be very diligent at what we do here,” Johnson said at Friday’s meeting.

The remaining three objections, all against Community School District 300 candidates, alleged the candidacy documents were improperly filled out and also questioned their notarization. District 300 includes all or parts of Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, Carpentersville, West Dundee, Pingree Grove and Hampshire.

Randi Gauthier, Olutola “Tola” Makinde and Nancy Zettler all had their documents notarized by Zettler. Zettler’s notary stamp is printed “Nancy A. Zettler,” while her signature does not include her middle initial.

The Illinois Notary Act states that specific inconsistency makes the notarization invalid, but the board held that doesn’t necessarily mean it translates to election law, which officials described as less black and white than notary law.

One of the objectors, Anna Harla still took issue with the discrepancy, but when asked, she was unable to show any precedent where the discrepancy led to someone being removed from the ballot.

“When you stamp something, you have to follow the law,” Harla said.

Zettler also notarized her own documents, which was part of the objection to her candidacy, but the board ruled it was possibly a case for notary law, but not election law.

Makinde had the longest list of objections for her documents. In addition to the arguments made regarding Zettler, the objection to Makinde’s candidacy said her printed name and signature were not consistent throughout the documents.

The board, falling back on previous decisions in the day, said it did not rise to kicking her off the ballot.

Makinde’s statement of economic interest listed her job title as a school board member, which she is not. This was also the case for Gauthier as well, but the board ruled it didn’t disqualify either candidate, ruling the form is not straightforward in what it is asking.

“These statements are confusing to fill out,” Shetley said.

The board is expected to issue its written decision on Jan. 17, Tirio said. Objectors will have five days after that to appeal any of the board’s decisions.