BURNHAM | The village's Electoral Board will reconvene later this month to determine if the man who wants to run against Village President Robert Polk in the April 9 municipal elections has enough valid signatures on his nominating petitions.
Antonio "Tony" Rias said Thursday he filed ballot petitions containing 105 signatures of support even though the law only required him to get 25 valid signatures.
But supporters of Polk filed a challenge saying that so many of Rias' signatures are invalid that he does not have the minimal amount required by state election law.
The Electoral Board, during a 10-minute hearing, set a schedule for both Rias and his challengers to have their attorneys file legal briefs stating their cases. During that time, the Cook County clerk's office will do a record examination of the Rias petitions to figure out how many valid signatures he really has.
Burt Odelson, an elections law specialist who is advising the Electoral Board, said that exam will be complete before the next scheduled hearing on Jan. 22. "We'll learn at the next hearing how it turned out," Odelson said.
Rias said he is convinced all of his nominating petition signatures are valid, and he accused Polk of using the issue to remove him so Polk can run unopposed in the April 9 municipal elections.
"He doesn't want to have competition," Rias said, following Thursday's hearing.
He said he believes Polk will try to come up with other reasons for removing him should the records exam by county officials come up in Rias' favor.
By state statute, Polk would be chairman of the Electoral Board in Burnham. But because his presence would be a conflict in this particular case, he was replaced on Thursday by Trustee Brenda Greer, who served along with Village Clerk Nancy Dobrowski and senior-most village Trustee John Cap Jr.
Polk was not present either at the Electoral Board hearing, nor at Village Hall on Thursday, and a message left by The Times was not returned.
Rias — who said he is a 15-year resident of Burnham — said he hopes his campaign for village president will survive an Electoral Board challenge and will be on the ballot on April 9.
"I know that I am about inclusion, not exclusion, and that is all that Robert Polk is about," Rias said. "I want to listen to people and try to offer them safety."