CALUMET CITY | Two men challenging Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush in this year’s municipal elections are using the Cook County Circuit Courts to advance their campaigns.
Victor Green, who wants to run against Qualkinbush in the Feb. 26 Democratic primary, received a judgment in Cook County court to overturn the electoral board decision that removed him from the ballot.
Associate Judge Alfred Paul ruled the board was incorrect when it said Green’s nominating petitions were not properly notarized. Attorney Adam Lasker said he was pleased with the ruling, which also restores aldermanic candidates Hope Allen and Imani Akin.
Green said local residents will benefit by having mayoral opposition.
“For the first time in four years, the people of Calumet City will have a choice,” said Green, pointing out that in 2009, Qualkinbush’s only opposition was the write-in campaign of police Sgt. Pam Cap.
Meanwhile, 4th Ward Alderman Brian Wilson filed a lawsuit this week in Cook County Circuit Court. The suit alleges officials withheld information from him about debts he reportedly owed to Calumet City government to harm his chances of running against Qualkinbush as a political independent April 9.
Qualkinbush supporters used the debt to say he is not eligible to run for office in this year’s election cycle, even though Wilson says he received a letter from the city more than a year ago informing him he had no debt. The debt involves property transfer tax stamps.
In Wilson’s bid to remain on the mayoral ballot, attorney John Jawor said during Friday’s Electoral Board hearing that his client paid the $232.72 owed for tax stamps on transfer documents related to properties Wilson owned on Paxton Avenue and 164th Street.
But James Nally, an attorney trying to remove Wilson from the ballot, said late fees increase the amount to $286.26 – and the difference is still owed and is sufficient reason to disqualify Wilson from running for office in this year’s election cycle.
Jawor said Wilson actually made a payment of $2,232 to the city, with instructions it be applied to whatever debt he might have. Part of what Wilson’s lawsuit seeks is a strict accounting of what was owed – and the return of whatever money remains from that amount.
“We’re talking about $1,900 that rightfully belongs to Mr. Wilson,” Jawor said.
Third Ward Alderman Thaddeus Jones, a one-time Wilson ally-turned-critic, mocked the lawsuit, saying Jawor, “is looking for a legal fee to be paid by the taxpayers of Calumet City.”
Electoral board activity was impacted by the lawsuit, since at one point Jawor tried to get City Attorney Burt Odelson disqualified from his role in advising the Electoral Board. Wilson said when he first started talking publicly about wanting to run for mayor, Odelson advised him to use the Freedom of Information Act to find out if he had outstanding debts to the city.
Wilson said he believes Odelson now has the electoral board using the issue against him as a political payback for comments Wilson made during his campaign about reducing the amount of city funds paid to outside law firms.
Odelson denied Wilson’s allegations.
“That is an untruth,” he said.
Odelson also said it is wrong to say that he tells the electoral board what to do.
“I don’t vote,” he said. “I give advice, (the board) can take it if they wish.”
The board meets Tuesday at City Hall, and Odelson said it was possible the board would act at that time to resolve Wilson’s ballot status. If they vote to remove him, Wilson could then file a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court to try to be restored.
“Most people can’t stand the idea of going to court, but I’m looking forward to it,” Wilson said. “I want to go to court so we can settle this.”