CALUMET CITY | The Electoral Board on Tuesday heard evidence about mayoral hopeful Brian Wilson's alleged unpaid debts as pertains to his candidacy on the April 9 ballot and is likely to rule on the matter come President’s Day.
Wilson testified during a four hour hearing that he specifically used the Freedom of Information Act to find out if he had any municipal debts, and was told no. But when supporters of Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush challenged his nominating petitions, one of the reasons they used was unpaid real estate transfer tax stamps on a pair of properties Wilson owned.
Wilson’s attorney, John Jawor, asked Wilson if he had any awareness prior to Dec. 26 that he had any debt. “Never!” Wilson responded.
And when asked if he had been notified officially at any time that he specifically had unpaid fees for real estate transactions, Wilson said “No! Never!”
The Electoral Board did not rule on the debts, which attorney James Nally said total $286.26 in late fees for those transfer stamps on properties Wilson owns on Paxton Avenue and 164th Street.
But after hearing testimony from Wilson, they scheduled a hearing for Monday at City Hall, which City Attorney Burt Odelson said would be the conclusion of Electoral Board hearings that began in December.
Wilson said he obtained two cashier’s checks and one money order — each for $741 — and gave them to the city clerk’s office, along with a letter saying the money was meant to pay any outstanding debts to Calumet City, even though Wilson says he was not aware of any and said he was told by former City Clerk Gloria Dooley that he was exempt from paying the transfer fees.
Nally ridiculed the notion that such a wide-ranging payment would be valid in any way.
“No government operates under a system where you drop a bag of money and say 'pay my debts,' " Nally said. “They’re not accountants for the people. It’s crazy to think so.”
Nally also said that if Wilson sincerely believed he owed no money to Calumet City, he should not have offered up any kind of payment – which he said in and of itself serves as confirmation that the debt was legitimate.
“He should have stuck to his guns,” Nally said of Wilson. “He should have had an appeal (of the debt) prior to his nominating papers being filed.”
Tuesday’s hearing became heated at times, particularly at two points when Nally insisted on questioning Wilson with his face about a foot away from Wilson’s. That led to Wilson attorney Jawor claiming that Nally was trying to “intimidate” Wilson.
Although Odelson, who served to advise the Electoral Board in its actions, was skeptical, saying, “the witness (Wilson) is not a shy individual.”
If removed from the ballot on Monday, Wilson would then have five working days to file an appeal in Cook County Circuit Court to be reinstated to the ballot.
Thus far, mayoral candidate Victor Green and candidates for other municipal offices aligned on a slate with Wilson already have been restored to the Feb. 26 ballot. Nally said he has not yet filed appeals with the Illinois appellate court to try to remove them again. “I’ve been busy with this case,” Nally said, motioning to the paperwork for Wilson’s case.