Park Commissioner Argues For “Nanny” Treatment For Candidates


Given all the mopes and scoundrels in Springfield – both Democrats and Republicans – who have combined to virtually bankrupt our state government over the past 30 years, it should come as no surprise that the Election Code they devised is far from a model of clarity and convenience.

But many other laws don’t meet that standard, either, which is why there is a continuing need for lawyers and courts. That’s also why the State Board of Elections publishes a pretty comprehensive candidate’s guide each election year.

The 94-page “Candidate’s Guide 2015” seems to contain all the information a competent candidate would need, even though it boldly warns in the Preface:

Legal information contained in this guide, however, is not binding and should not be construed as sufficient argument in response to an objection to any candidate’s nominating papers. The State Board of Elections recommends that all prospective candidates consult with competent legal counsel when preparing their nomination papers. [Emphasis added.]

And if that’s not warning enough, the very first point under the General Filing Requirements section of the Guide reiterates:

Candidates are strongly advised to obtain legal counsel regarding their qualifications for office, the proper method for completing the petition forms for a specific office, the minimum and maximum number of signatures required, the qualifications of the signers and circulators, etc. [Emphasis added.]

So why (according to a January 10, 2015 article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, “Park District should be more helpful to candidates: commissioner”) does Park District Commissioner Joan Bende think “[t]he average citizen should not have to go to election lawyers and pay money to figure out how to do this”?

We’ve always assumed the “average citizen” can read the petition requirements and understand them well enough to file his/her petitions, often without consulting “competent legal counsel.” Thousands of candidates in Crook County alone have successfully done so in recent elections, so it really can’t be that darn tough or expensive. But, then again, those “average citizens” also must accept the consequences that flow from their decision to do it themselves if someone decides to object to their petitions, as occurred with the Park Board candidacy of Cynthia Grau.

Accepting consequences and accountability was not in Bende’s tool box at last Thursday (01.08.15) night’s Park Board meeting, however, as you can see for yourself by going to the Park District’s meeting video, starting at the 1:23:40 mark.

Bende spent several minutes bemoaning the “crisis” presented by an objection to the petitions of her friend Grau, who was in the audience. Bende also ripped on the Park District and its long-time attorney, Thomas Hoffman, for not making it the District’s obligation to hold the candidates’ hands and warn them when their petitions don’t satisfy election law requirements.

Hoffman stated that he always has advised District employees not to give what could be viewed as “legal advice” about candidate petitions, not only because that could make the employees witnesses in legal proceedings over such advice but, also, because doing so could constitute the unauthorized practice of law. And according to the H-A article, a State Board of Elections deputy general counsel voiced similar concerns, even while saying that nothing in the Election Code expressly prohibited the giving of such advice.

Those concerns make plenty of sense, considering that even separate branches of the Illinois Appellate Court can’t agree on something as simple as whether or not a paper clip satisfies the Election Code requirement that all pages of a petition being submitted for filing “shall be neatly fastened together…at one edge in a secure and suitable manner.”

Consequently, in Bendell v. Education Officers Electoral Board, 338 Ill.App.3d 458 (1st Dist., March 28, 2003), one appellate court panel held that a 6-8 page petition (Grau’s petition had 29 pages) fastened with a paper clip that needed to be removed to separate the pages “strictly complied” with the securely-fastened requirement. But in Girot v. Keith, 341 Ill.App.3d 902 (3d Dist. July 11, 2003), another appellate court panel held that petition pages fastened with a paper clip “could not meet the purposes of the [Election Code’s] requirements” and were not even in “substantial compliance” with such requirements.

As Justice (and law school dean) Warren Wolfson wrote in his dissent in Bendell: “Fastening securely is not a trivial or nitpicking requirement. It obviously is intended to prevent fraud or tampering, thus preserving the integrity of the papers. It is too easy to slip papers in or out of a packet when a paper clip is used.” Which is why there are staplers, and why the vast majority of people who papers securely fastened staple them rather than paper-clip them, or binder-clip them.

But until the Illinois Supreme Court decides to reconcile these two seemingly inconsistent decisions, or the geniuses in our General Assembly amend the current Election Code to expressly state whether the secure-fastening requirement can be satisfied by paper-clipping, binder-clipping, stapling, spiral binding, velo-binding, or arc welding, candidates would be wise to consult a competent election lawyer.

Which reportedly is what Grau has done, now that her petitions have been challenged. We’re guessing that will cost her a lot more than a pre-filing consultation would have – which might explain why her buddy Bende was in such a fine whine about petition-challenging “bullies” and how “terrible” and “fundamentally unfair” the petition rules and Park District’s no-advice policy are.

According to the H-A article, however, City Clerk Betty Henneman, a non-lawyer, claims that she does a petition compliance review for candidates for City office. Henneman even admits to having “accepted things with a clip on them and stapled it” because she doesn’t “see a big deal with that and…[doesn’t] think that should be an obstruction to running for office.”

Maybe not, but she seems to be getting uncomfortably close to petition tampering. And if the stapling of paper-clipped petitions is not a consistently-enforced City policy, there’s always the chance that one candidate’s paper-clipped petitions might get stapled while another candidate’s might not, thereby unfairly subjecting the latter’s to objections.

We wonder if City Attorney Everette “Buzz” Hill knows that’s what Betty’s been doing all these years?

When all is said and done, however, the competence, diligence and judgment of a prospective candidate must be called into question when she would go to the effort of collecting 200+ signatures but then consider anything short of stapling as a “secure and suitable manner” for fastening those petitions together – assuming she even read that requirement.

And we also have to question the competence, judgment and basic common sense of a sitting Park Board member who wants the Park District to voluntarily (and at no cost to the candidates) substitute for the private legal counsel even the State Board of Elections strongly suggests candidates should consult.

Apparently in Bende’s view of local government, that’s what friends are for.

To read or post comments, click on title.

29 comments so far

Yes Bob, I’ve made a lot of “friends” through this process. Joan was not the only board person to speak on this issue in my favor. Some of my friends are anonymous to me. Some are contributing to my “costly” defense of the challenge to my petitions. Some are giving me free publicity too.

I think it is a sad state of affairs when someone has to pay money to an attorney to run for a Park District seat that pays no money. Even lawyers have fallen into the same trap I have. Perhaps the instructions should be rewritten to save the taxpayers money. They are the ones paying for this challenge.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Someone doesn’t have to “pay money to an attorney to run for a Park District seat that pays no money,” just like someone doesn’t have to hire a lawyer but can represent him/herself in court. When they choose to do it themselves, however, they have to accept the consequences and not expect a suspension of the rules or a do-over.

And if we employ the “for want of a horse [staple]” analogy, had your petitions not arguably been defective, presumably no challenge would have been filed. So you are the one responsible for whatever is the cost of “this challenge.”

So it’s time to step up and take ownership of your decision to file what you filed, and the consequences that have flowed from it.

I’m owning it Bob.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Good…then we are making progress.

It’s pretty crappy that, going by the State’s own guidance, that running for any public office should require a lawyer. (All due respect to lawyers…)

Whether it’s for park board or state senate or even governor, the process should be much more accessible. Instead it’s designed to keep out the nobodies that nobody sent.

Still, the law is the law and unfortunately Cindy got caught in it. I’m frankly more worried, however, about your point regarding Mrs. Henneman. Did she break the law?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t know whether Mrs. Henneman broke the law, but after hearing Atty. Hoffman explain his reasoning at last week’s Park Board meeting it’s a good question.

I could understand, maybe, using a binder clip if you had 100 pages and no heavy-duty stapler. But the standard Swingline would handle 29 pages with no problem. Even without knowing what the law was, that should be a no-brainer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It would appear that way.

There are many camps on this issue. The obvious ones are on both ends, yours/Foss Eggemann’s camp and Grau Camp.

However there is a camp in the middle that thinks this is a bunch of petty political insider crap.

This move by Char will make the base happy and piss off the other side. The question is how big is that group in the middle.

In a town where it is difficult to even get regular contested elections, I’m not sure being the group rallying to have a person booted for binders verses staples is such a good idea.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You start by saying there “are many camps on this issue” but then you identify only three. And you purport to speak (anonymously, of course) for one of them. Pretty presumptuous for someone hiding in the closet of anonymity, especially since we don’t see any “group rallying to have a person booted for binders verses [sic] staples.”

The simple fact is that An objection was filed for what appears to be a lawful, non-frivolous reason. The only “rallying” appears to be by “the rules don’t apply to us” folks supporting the candidate who foolishly chose a binder clip over a staple, which you attempt to defend by suggesting that lawful, non-frivolous objections might discourage already-limited contested elections. By that rationale we could dispense with virtually every petition requirement that might discourage anybody from running for office.

Frankly, we have mixed feelings for how the objection turns out. If it succeeds, that would suggest that rules matter – a good thing. On the other hand, that also would ensure that Ryan and Thillens both get re-elected – a Hobson’s non-Choice.

Someone’s been paying attention to details.

Re: Attorney Hoffman’s comments
He never said it was illegal. He said he did not want to give advice to a candidate and be liable for the advice.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Correct, he never said that a Park District employee coaching a candidate on the correct way to file his/her petitions was illegal; and neither did the attorney from the State Board of Elections.

But if you’re referring to what Mrs. Henneman has admitted to doing, she was not merely giving advice: she was physically substituting her staple for the filer’s paper clip.

Count another body for the middle ground that thinks this is a bunch of “petty political insider crap.” Based on who filed the objections-the PRPD and the D64 objections-one could assert that Eggeman is trying to keep a candidate off the PRPD board ballot to aid Thillens-who reached a new low with Biagi and there comment about naming the bathroom facilities after Hillary Rodham Clinton

and also keep a candidate off the D64 ballot to aid her husbands chances of being elected to that board. Her claims of maintaining the integrity of the electoral process rings very hallow given her connection to both elections.

The issue at hand for Ms. Grau is a binder clip versus a staple. This is not reportedly about invalid signatures. PD is often trumpeting involvement of the citizens in the political process whether it be voting or running for office to expand the choice of the voters. These objections by Eggeman are petty.

If there is some way to provide potential candidates with assistance in properly interpreting the filing rules without breaking any laws why would that be a bad thing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr/Ms. Freud, your slip is showing with your contention that Ms. Foss-Eggemann’s “claims of maintaining the integrity of the electoral process rings very hallow….” [Emphasis added.]

We always trumpet involvement, but we prefer the involvement of reasonably competent people when we can get them. Now maybe Ms. Grau IS a reasonably competent person, and maybe the elections officials conducting her hearing this Friday will confirm that – at least re petition filing compliance. But we’ve seen more auspicious starts.

I do not speak for any camp. I offer my own analysis of what I see.

Are you telling me that that middle group does not exist??

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nope. But we’re not sure that there is only one “middle group” – although we’re pretty sure the majority of any such middle group are folks who don’t know and don’t care about the Park Board election, Ms. Grau, Ms. Foss-Eggemann, or the petition objection.

If you read the objections, there is some validity.

There are three stated problems with the Grau paperwork. The binder vs staple is the least likely to be problematic, and therefore is the one that people who like to discredit the whole affair cling to. The second is that the candidate put the incorrect name of the office she is running for on the Statement of Econimic Interest (the one that discloses any financial conflicts of interest). And the third claim is that the Statement of Candidacy is not attached to the packet at all, in spite of there being very simple language instructing the candidate to do so printed directly on the top of that form.

And from what I’ve read about the D64 objection, the candidate got barely over the paltry 50-some signatures, and many of those don’t appear to be valid voters in the district. That’s certainly worth an objection. Who, other than aware supporters of one candidate or another, would go through the effort?

But your final point is the key: only an opposing candidate or one of that candidate’s strong supporters would go through the effort to challenge a petition. So, of course, the objector is trying to make it easier for a candidate he/she favors to win by knocking out opponents who couldn’t handle the basic petition filing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re not election lawyers, so we focused on the binder-clip objection because: (a) it’s the easiest one for most people to grasp; and (b) it illustrates the arcane nature of the Election Code, demonstrating why the Board of Elections suggests that candidates consult with an election attorney.

I hear Ms. Grau is a candidate representing “Go Green Park Ridge,” which has a website,, but has no “Who We Are” tab explaining what GGPR is or who runs it. And I checked the secretary of state corporations website and GGPR is not registered. There is a Facebook page, but that too is missing that information.

So besides Ms. Grau not getting her petitions straight, it looks like she is part of a shadow organization (assuming “organization” is the correct term) that is not at all forthcoming about itself. That concerns me.


Your right!! Why we anon poster of all people should be upset about people possibly hiding things!, who do they think they are?!?


I clicked on the link you provided and you are right…..this group is really up to something. Why they have tabs for thing like Garden Walks and recycling. They even have an announcement for an electronics recycling event, at St. Paul!!!! AHHHHH!!! Bunch of subversives!!!

I am not a candidate of the “GGPR party”. I am a citizen running for office. If you want to know what we stand for ask the Park District, City Council or the mayor for that matter.

By the way, one more thing, you stated “I hear Ms. Grau is a candidate representing “Go Green Park Ridge,” Is that true??

I mean it is not as if Go Green is a political party that has a slate of candidates. Is it not more accurate to say that she is a member of Go Green who happens to be running for the PD board??

There are many organizations in town that many or our elected officials belong to. That does not mean they were “representing” that organizations when they ran. We have had PD board members who were/are very involved as members of youth football, baseball and indian scouts, all who use PD facilities. That does not mean when they ran they were representing these organizations.

The Go Green group is made up of a few very loud, annoying, fanatical moms, that have waged Jihad against green grass and common sense.

The group is either embarrassed of what they represent, or don’t want their name identified with cow manure, since the site, doesn’t identify its members on its website. This is a strange group. Another group, trying to make Park Ridge worse because they are bored, and something they can tell their friends they are conquering.

Usually every “green” group is either in it for a different “green” or completely brainwashed, and want to control us heathens.

Basically, Cindy is running because she doesn’t like the park board doesn’t want to advance their lunacy pet project?

EDITOR’S NOTE: In theory, “green” should be a good thing and totally consistent with the mission of the Park District.


Interesting post!! Now flesh it out a bit please. Exactly what green grass and common sense have they waged war against?? In what ways are they trying to make PR worse??

I read their website would in no way sign up for all they have written but I find nothing to support the statements you have made.

Lastly, loud, annoying, fanatical people???? In PR??? No way!!!

This whole controversy is about victimhood. Grau and Bende argue that, “No one should have even LOOKED at petitions to see if there are errors.” They say, “If there are errors,then EVEYRONE should have looked the other way because THAT would have been the RIGHT thing to do. How DARE someone complain about possible mistakes?” Put another way, Grau and Bende say, “These rules are not important in my judgment, so we MUST all agree that these laws are petty, and we MUST all ignore them, and if you don’t, you are a child.” Nonsense. As pub dog and the legislature and the courts point out, these laws do have a purpose. If we ignore one, how do we decide which ones to ignore? Who decides? And, the rules everyone is fighting about look pretty simple to follow. All of the filing forms have pre-printed on them in bold two “x” marks at the top and state that they should be bound at the two “x” marks. THESE INSTRUCTIONS DON’T REQUIRE A LAWYER (sorry pub dog – one less client for you). So, before condemning everyone who disagrees with you, think about this: If two children are running a race, and one steps over the starting line by a fraction of a millimeter at the start BY ACCIDENT, a rule was broken. Yes, maybe the runners trained for months, they are good people, and everyone wants to give the kids a chance and let them find out who will win. But should a responsible adult tell the kids, “It’s okay, because that’s a petty rule, and it doesn’t make any difference….”? I don’t think we should tell those kids that it’s a “bad rule,” or that the kid who won by default is a scumbag, or that the referee didn’t do a good enough job holding the kid’s hand at the starting line. It’s a false start. Being a good sport means that you have to honor the rule book and wait for the next race.

What has Go Green waged war against?
Well 8:56, by forcing unproven, ineffective, and more costly treatments to the taxpayers assets.

Don’t go by their propaganda site…which is all recycling, and non -controversial happy happy stuff. Do you really think that they formed a secret (but loud) group to collect all of the styrofoam containers in town???

Here’s a real question….is this the re-creation of the PADS advocates? Hmmmmm……

Is this the same recycled ideologues, newest government intrusive way of forcing their far left ideology on Park Ridge, but all wrapped in the “green” (“for the kids”) mantra?

People, don’t fall for this stuff.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What “unproven, ineffective, and more costly treatments to the taxpayers assets” has GGPR forced on anybody?


I was serious when I asked my question and this is the response I get??

Let me try again. What exactly are these “unproven, ineffective, and more costly treatments to the taxpayers assets” you refer to and how said treatments being “forced”??

As to your linking the idea of going green to PADS, well, all I can say is Oh my god!!!

Pull the tin hat down over years. It’s a cold day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: PADS (i.e., PADS to Hope, Inc.) is a private 501(c)(3) corporation based in Palatine that attempted, back in 2007-08, to open one of its one-night-a-week shelters in Park Ridge. GGPR, on the other hand, appears – as best we can tell from the sketchy information provided on its website – is a Park Ridge-based organization. So while we doubt a tin foil hat will keep anyone’s “years” warm, it appears to be a stretch to connect the GGPR dot with the PADS dot.

I don’t even know what to say to some of these comments. I’m putting myself out there to run for a public office and anonymous posters can throw anything they want at me to see if it sticks.

FYI – I never said no one had the right to LOOK at my petitions and I don’t believe commissioner Bende or O’Brien said that either. I believe Char has the right to look at and challenge my candidacy. I do however believe it is being done to protect an incumbent not to “safeguard the integrity of the election process.”

I would also love to hear about the lunatic project I am supposedly advancing. And because I am involved in the Boy Scouts is there another angle there? Or because I’ve volunteered at my church, I want to infiltrate the Park Board to bring PADS to town? I sincerely hope that was a joke or I’m gonna have to quit this conversation.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cindy, addressing only your comment about “the right to LOOK” at your petitions, that most definitely is NOT the issue…and you know it. Ms. Bende didn’t criticize the looking, she criticized the objecting – referring to petition-challenging “bullies” and the objections themselves as a “crisis.”

As far as whatever “Go Green Park Ridge” connection you have, at this point we don’t know enough to care. But after we saw that comment about GGPR not being an Illinois corporation (unlike, for example, Go Green Wilmette NFP, Go Green Glencoe, Go Green Northbrook) and the GGPR website not having “Who We Are” or “About Us” pull-downs, such questions would appear to be legitimate even if not crucial or decisive.

I was responding to anon 10:16 who made that claim.

Go Green Park Ridge is a young organization, the others have been awhile for quite some time and are more established. I will suggest we get an “about us” page on our site. Anyone is welcome to our meetings the first Tuesday of the month.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What about the people (perhaps like 10:16) who might not want to, or are unavailable to, attend your meetings – but who wonder what exactly is GGPR (C corp, NFP corp, LLC, partnership, association) and who are its officers/principals that have enabled it to acquire such visibility around the community in such a short time?

Cindy, I agree — this conversation has jumped the shark.

I know Justice Wolfson personally, and he’s a mensch, and I agree with him in this case. But you have to admit it’s pretty discouraging to think of spending money for advice when the big dogs (no, not you, sorry) themselves can’t agree on what constitutes “securely” fastened? Yes, she should have read the forms themselves; they’re not quite as impenetrable as the “instructions.” And yes, it’s awkward to have one taxing body provide help but not another. I would be interested in some official legal view of the City’s help to candidates, but don’t look to Buzz. A glare from the mayor and Buzz opines that “shall” means “might” and “2.7%” means “1.50%” — so let’s not tax him with defining “securely.”
Beyond that, the freakish leap from Go Green to PADS tells Ms. Grau and everybody else where the far right (to match the “far left”) in Park Ridge goes with even the most innocuous issue. If we have non-toxic (and perhaps non-verdant) soccer fields, and what’s next? Homeless people! Right here in River City! And besides, man’s part in climate change is a godless hoax.
Yes, Ms. Grau would look more prepared for a position with legal ramifications if GoGreen were registered as an Illinois N-F-P, but if they’re not collecting donations or trying to buy stuff sans sales tax, they’re not out of line, right? They might as well be called Young Moms’ Book Club. (Unless that sounds subversive; wimmen reading!) All the other suburbs you mention have a lawyer in every other house. Park Ridge is not so lucky, and perhaps Ms. Grau doesn’t hang out with lawyers every day. If we can have a truly scary guy like Dathan Paterno on D64’s board, we can have a greenie on the Park Board. It takes at least four votes out of seven to do anything, remember? This whole thing, started as a partisan move to let the new Republican Committeeman (or do they say Committeewoman?) show she has some chops. What it’s done is make some of those folks in the middle think less of the Republicans (some have said they think the green issue is “crap” but they think the manuever is crappier, right on this blog). It has also given Ms. Grau and GoGreen a much bigger visibility than they could have hoped for otherwise. Dick Barton couldn’t have orchestrated it better.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There’s probably at least one lawyer on every square block of Park Ridge, especially if you include those who no longer practice.

Judging by what he has done in his first two years on the D-64 Board, if you’re referring to him as the “truly scary…Dathan Paterno” you must be positively terrified of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Finally, given how the local “Republicans” (a/k/a the Maine Twp. government) neutered the Republican Party locally over the last several years, we wouldn’t be shocked to find out that they and their paid public relations guru have had a hand in orchestrating the criticism of their least favorite Republican Commmitteeman/woman.

Whether you agree with Ms. Grau on this staple issue (or the GoGreen group) at least she is here facing the music. The Maine Township Republican Committeeman is nowhere to be seen. Of course she has the benefit of you doing all the talking for (and defending of) her.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes she is, and we respect that.

We have not been “doing all the talking for” Ms. Foss-Eggemann (or for Mr. Johnston, if his objection to Ms. Gruss matters to you). We’ve been talking in support of the petition and objection process, which may well be flawed but which is still the law with which every candidate must comply or face the consequences. Which is why we have never (to our recollection) ripped on objectors, and why we have little sympathy for non-compliance – and those who would prefer to look the other way or point fingers in every direction but at their candidate who might have screwed up.

You obviously don’t recall the damage the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man did in Ghostbusters.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That was a GIANT Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man. We’re talking about conventional size.

Go (away) Green- you’re trying to make me go away but I’m not gonna make it easy on you. You might have to work for your seat on the board this time.

Any results on the hearing?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Continued to 1/19.

Ms. Foss-Eggeman has withdrawn her Objection to my petitions. My name will be on the ballot for Park Ridge Park District Commissioner. Many thanks to my supporters.

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