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Electoral board upholds referendum asking whether to restructure Regional Office of Education

McHenry County's electoral board strikes down complaint

McHenry County's electoral board decided on Tuesday to overrule an objection seeking to strike an advisory referendum regarding the restructuring of McHenry County's Regional Office of Education from March's primary ballot.

The complaint, which was filed by former McHenry County Board candidate Orville Brettman, alleged that the referendum – which asked voters whether the County Board should pursue a new structure of the office of the McHenry County Regional Superintendent of Schools or enter into an agreement with another Regional Office of Education to share services – was defective and offered a vague definition of what restructuring of the office would entail.

Brettman's attorney, Kenneth Shepro, argued that under the law, a referendum question has to be capable of being answered "yes" or "no." However, Shepro compared the language of the ROE referendum with seeking a "yes" or "no" answer to the question of whether a married couple should divorce or seek marriage counseling.

Lake County Assistant State's Attorney John Christensen, who represented the McHenry County Board during the hearing, argued that the advisory referendum simply is seeking guidance from constituents and if voters are not in agreement of a new structure of the office, they will vote "no."

Shepro also argued that several election precincts within other counties are incorporated within the McHenry County ROE but the resolution authorizing the referendum fails to specifically state that the question would be voted on through elections within the ROE's region.

Norm Vinton, chief of the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office's civil division, said he trusted that the appropriate county clerks will certify the referendum for the affected precincts.

"If not, I think it's a lawsuit for a different day," Vinton said.

Vinton said that he did not believe the petitioner met his burden of proof that the advisory question was defective since no case law was referenced defending the claim.

The electoral board voted, 3-0, to overrule the objection.

Brettman said he was shocked by the unanimous decision but will seek judicial review of his petition. Shepro said during this process, the case will be reviewed in circuit court but without the presentation of new evidence or witnesses.

Taking the place on the election board of McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio, who recused himself from this specific objection hearing, was McHenry County Treasurer Glenda Miller.

Miller also serves as treasurer of the Republican Women's Club of McHenry County, an organization which McHenry County ROE Superintendent Leslie Schermerhorn has donated to. Miller told the Northwest Herald on Tuesday that her service on the electoral board for this hearing wasn't a potential conflict of interest since the organization receives donations from all female Republican candidates in the county.

Despite the referendum being voted down in committee, the McHenry County Board voted to authorize the question to appear on the primary ballot in November.

The ROE faced recent scrutiny regarding multiple errors in the office’s financial reporting to the Illinois Auditor General Office, including fund balances that were not correctly rolled over from the previous year and incorrectly reported grant funding – none of which resulted in the loss of money, Schermerhorn has said.

McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said in a statement issued after the hearing that he was glad the electoral board saw through a frivolous attempt to deny McHenry County voters a say in the structure of their government.

"I look forward to hearing what the voters have to say about the future of an office whose time, I believe, has passed," Franks said.

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