James Barrett declines Johnsburg village trustee seat after election, will serve on District 12 school board

Candidate was unaware state law says offices are ‘incompatible’ and cannot be held at the same time when he ran for both

One of the three candidates to run uncontested for the Johnsburg Village Board no longer expects to take his seat next month.

Instead, James Barrett plans to stay on the Johnsburg School District 12 board, which preliminary election results show he won a seat on in a six-way contest for four spots.

Barrett said ran campaigns for both elected offices with hopes to serve each, but discovered just before the April 6 election that state law prohibits someone from holding both positions at the same time.

An exception is made for villages or cities with fewer than 2,500 residents. Johnsburg had a population of more than 6,000, according to the 2010 census.

Barrett indicated he decided to surrender the village trustee position partly because that race was uncontested.

Kirk Donald is on track to be the next closest Johnsburg School District 12 candidate to winning election, with more than 200 votes between his fifth place standing, and Steve Link, the candidate with the fourth highest number of votes.

“I look forward to serving the community on the school board,” Barrett said. “I certainly would have looked forward to doing both if there wasn’t the statute that stated that. However it was a tough decision and I felt that was the right decision. For me, based on looking at both races side by side, the school board was the obvious choice to keep our village and our school district in good hands.”

Johnsburg Village President Ed Hettermann said village officials intend to appoint someone to fill the seat Barrett will decline to accept.

Donald, along with Fred Haller, challenged the four school board incumbents on track to win election when the results are certified Tuesday. He planned on reaching out to the McHenry County’s top election official, Clerk Joe Tirio, to ask that state rules on incompatible offices are made more clear to candidates when they are deciding to run.

“I will write a letter to [McHenry County Clerk] Joe Tirio and explain the situation and ask him to help clarify this situation, or make everybody aware of this in the next election,” Donald said. “I don’t fault Joe Tirio.”

Donald objected to Barrett running for both positions, arguing he thought it could lead to a conflict of interest.

“One of the most upsetting things in this whole school board election is the fact that I don’t think the incumbents took my candidacy seriously,” Donald said. “I think they thought Fred and I were just slash-and-burn candidates, and we weren’t. We were trying to keep the [district property tax] levy flat and find other ways to bring money into the school district.”

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.