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'I object'

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St. Elmo hearing postponed – again – when objector repeatedly refuses to answer questions

By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

A third attempt to determine whether two candidates for alderman in St. Elmo can remain on the ballot was scheduled for this Wednesday afternoon.
The first hearing of a St. Elmo municipal electoral board, held last Tuesday evening, was brief, as the two candidates – Lloyd Carson and Jayson Porter – were given more time to challenge the objections filed on their nominating petitions.
Then on Friday evening, the hearing was adjourned by Mayor Larry Tish as one of the objectors continually refused to answer questions asked by Don Sheafor, a Vandalia attorney representing Carson and Porter.
The hearing was scheduled to resume at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at the Phillips Building.
Rita Davis, who is running against Carson in the April municipal election, and Lyle Haslett contend that Carson and Porter did not gather enough signatures on their nominating petitions to legally be placed on the ballot.
All candidates in the April election reportedly received from the county information that included vote totals from the city’s 2007 election, instead of those from the 2009 election. The number of signatures required for candidates is based on vote totals from the most-recent election.
Friday’s hearing got under way with Davis reading her objection to Carson’s petition, contending that Carson not only failed to comply with election requirements by obtaining only two signatures, but also alleging that one of those signatures contained an incorrectly stated address.
Davis argues that even though all candidates received incorrect information on the number of signatures required for their petitions, they are ultimately responsible for having the correct number of names on their documents.
Under questioning by Sheafor, Davis said she learned about the incorrect address information on one of Carson’s two signatures by looking at a voter registration list.
Asked where she obtained that list, Davis stated the first of numerous objections to Sheafor’s questions. “I have it; that should be enough,” Davis said.
She eventually told Sheafor that she obtained the list from “legal counsel,” and when he asked her to give the name of the attorney she spoke with, Davis continued to object.
She also objected when Sheafor asked where she obtained a list of people who voted in the last municipal election.
When Sheafor asked Davis why she obtained more signatures than required on documents she received at city hall, she said that City Treasurer Mary Magnus told her that she needed two signatures, and added, “You may want to get more.”
Asked why she got 10 signatures for her petition, enough to legally get on the spring ballot, Davis told Sheafor, “I just walked around asking people in my neighborhood to sign it. I just walked around and collected 10.
“I could have got more than 10,” she said. “I just stopped at the first page.”
When Sheafor pressed her on that, with him stating that the number of signatures collected “just happened to be the correct number,” Davis said there was no specific reason for getting that number.
“Is there a law against that?” Davis asked him.
Davis also conceded that she received an attorney general’s opinion attached to her objection from a private attorney.
She said she “consulted with” an attorney, but did not “hire one.”
Asked by Sheafor who she had consulted with, Davis said, “I don’t think I have to answer that,” citing “attorney/client privilege.”
Sheafor asked if someone had city hall had put her in touch with the private attorney, and Davis said, “No, I object to that (question).”
As Sheafor was asking Davis when she first saw Carson’s petition, Tish interrupted, saying that he wanted to adjourn the hearing until Monday evening, to allow Davis and Haslett time to speak with private counsel and/or arrange for private counsel to be present for the hearing, if Davis and Haslett wished.
Haslett had told Tish that he did not see the need to speak with an attorney or have one present for the hearing.
Tish and City Clerk Brenda Taylor voted to reschedule the hearing, and the third member of the electoral board, Alderwoman Theresa Riley, voted against the mayor’s motion.
The meeting was set for 7 p.m. on Monday, but was rescheduled for Wednesday due to the winter storm that moved through the county that day.