Candidate pulls out from Joliet City Council race
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org February 1, 2013 12:06PM
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:36AM
The ballot for Joliet City Council candidates has been knocked down from six to four with little known yet about who wanted David Piekosz and John Gnutek out of the race.
Piekosz pulled out Friday rather than trying to keep up a fight in court while working a full-time job in downtown Chicago.
“After being taken to civil court, I re-evaluated my priorities,” Piekosz said in a written statement after his withdrawal papers were filed. “I came to the conclusion that now is not the right time for me to run. Again, I thank all the people who signed my petition and those who support me.”
Gnutek had pulled out previously when problems were found in his petitions.
The Joliet Electoral Board had agreed that Gnutek should be off the ballot. But the same board kept Piekosz on the ballot before the challenge was taken to Will County Circuit Court.
The four candidates left in an election that offers only three open spots all have said in some form that they are not involved in the petition challenges. The election is April 9.
The nominal objector who filed the challenge is Joseph Fischer, an obscure Joliet resident with no apparent civic or political involvement. Fischer has refused to comment about his reasons or whether he is involved with any of the candidates.
But the lawyer who has handled the challenge is Bryan Kopman, who also is the Troy Township Republican Party chairman. Kopman has handled other efforts to oust candidates from ballots.
As it happens, one of the candidates, Jim McFarland, is a Troy Township Republican who currently holds the office of Troy Township clerk.
McFarland, out of state on vacation last week, did not return phone calls asking him to discuss his possible connections to the petition challenge.
But he did respond with an email simply saying, “I have no involvement in the petition challenge.”
Kopman said he has never talked with McFarland about the case. Fischer came to him, Kopman said, and asked him to review the petitions of all three challengers in the election. McFarland’s petitions had 800 more names than were needed, Kopman said, and, “There’s no way you’re going to knock of 800 (signatures).”
McFarland would seem to benefit most from the removal of the two candidates. He now is the only challenger on the ballot, which makes him the beneficiary of any anti-incumbent votes.
The incumbent council members — Don Fisher, Jan Quillman and Michael Turk — all said they were not involved in the petition challenge.
Fisher said does not know Joseph Fischer and that people should not be confused by the similarity of their names, which are spelled differently.
“It’s not a relative, and it’s not the way I do business,” Fisher said. “Whoever is on the ballot is fine with me.”
Quillman said she was “shocked” when she learned of the petition challenges.
“In all the time I’ve run (for city council) since 1997 I’ve never seen that happen,” Quillman said. She noted that there were 11 candidates in the at-large election in 2009 with no petition challenges.
Turk, too, said he has never seen a petition challenge in the at-large races, and this is his eighth council election. In his experience, Turk said, “This is the smallest field of any at-large race at any time.”