Politics at Moraine Valley?
Hastings denies involvement; candidate disagrees
By Steve Metsch
An election challenge of five candidates for the Moraine Valley Community College board appears to be politically motivated, said one candidate.
Joseph Murphy, an 18-year incumbent whose candidacy is one of those targeted, said the challenges are “a big power play by (Orland Hills Mayor) Kyle Hastings.”
Hastings on Tuesday said he has nothing to do with challenges made by a former Orland Hills village employee.
A preliminary hearing on the challenges was held Monday in the MVCC board room. The challenges will likely be settled next week.
Lawyers for both sides – along with two candidates representing themselves – agreed to the 1 p.m. Jan. 18 hearing suggested by board attorney Judy Kolman.
Linda Ehlers, second from left, and Brendan Houlihan, behind her, are two of the five candidates whose petitions are being challenged. Photo by Steve Metsch.
The objections were filed by Craig F. Schmidt, a retired Orland Hills village employee.
According to the Illinois Public Schools Database, Schmidt earned $124,001 in 2017 as Assistant Public Works Director for the Orland Hills Public WorksDepartment.
Schmidt is no longer employed by Orland Hills, Hastings said.
“He’s retired. I do know he follows politics very closely. And, he’s up to date on many things, like a lot of people in the south suburbs are,” Hastings said.
Asked if he had told Schmidt to file the objections, Hastings replied: “No, I’m not that smart.”
Schmidt has filed objections to nomination papers filed by newcomers Linda Ehlers, Brendan Houlihan and Shadin Maali; and incumbents Sandra Wagner and Murphy.
Those five are running for three six-year terms on the board. Murphy and Wagner are up for re-election. Incumbent trustee Eileen O’Sullivan is not seeking office.
There are eight in total seeking the six-year terms. The other three candidates, according to nominating petitions obtained Tuesday from MVCC, have ties to Schmidt.
Schmidt is the notary public on nomination petitions filed by Bernadette Barrett, Beth McElroy Kirkwood, and Jaclyn O’Day, none of whom he’s challenged.
Late Monday, Murphy said Hastings is trying to take control of the board by having the five not affiliated with him removed from the ballot.
“He’s got his daughter (Kimberly Hastings) there already. Two years ago, he got his assistant village administrator, Brian O’Neill, elected to the board,” Murphy said.
“What he’s doing is he’s shooting to pick up more seats,” Murphy said. “Kyle has been very involved with this. He hand-delivered the petitions for the candidates he is running.”
Mayor Hastings said “I don’t think so” when asked if he was trying to get his people elected to the board, or trying to have others removed.
“I don’t think they’re my people,” he said “They’re representative of hundreds of people. They’re from Palos. They’re from Orland. It’s a good representation of the district.”
“They’re all highly qualified people,” he said, “and I hope they’ve all filled out the paperwork properly in order to stay on the ballot.”
Signatures on the challenged petitions will be reviewed sometime before Jan. 18 at the County Clerk’s office, Kolman said at Monday’s hearing.
“The sad part of this,” Joe Murphy said, “is you’re proven guilty until you are proven innocent. They’re saying signatures (on petitions) are fraudulent.”
Schmidt did not attend Monday’s hearing. His attorney, Jim Nally, said Schmidt “is a registered voter in the district” who is “exercising his right to challenge in the election code.”
“I don’t know if he’s picking on them. He’s making sure their nomination papers comply with the law. Many citizens file these complaints. There are 153 objections filed (for the April election) in Chicago. It’s a right any voter can exercise,” Nally said.
“The legal issues there are full and partial terms. You have to specify what you’re running for, the full or partial. Their nomination papers don’t specify and the vacancy and under the law they’re required to do that,” Nally said.
Hastings said Schmidt filed the challenges “because they didn’t fill the paperwork out properly, that’s what I hear.”
Matt Walsh, the attorney representing Maali, Houlihan and Wagner, said “we are very confident we’ll prevail.”
“We will be here on the 18thfor the hearing and we expect to walk out of here victorious,” Walsh said.
Ehlers, a retired chiropractor, decided to run because she has concerns about MVCC.
“With the college not lowering tuition, no longer hiring full-time professors, and paying thousands in pensions,” she said, “local citizens need to pay attention”
Murphy enjoys being on the board, noting the new recreation center and other physical improvements to the campus during his tenure.
“In 18 years, I hired one person. That’s the president. I’m not over there to get my brother (or) my cousin a job,” Murphy said
“Kyle wants to knock off Murphy and Wagner because he knows we’re out for the good of the college, not the good of our pocketbooks,” he added.
An alumnus of Moraine Valley, Hastings said he often boasts about the college wherever he travels in Illinois.
“Not only the quality education I had, but the quality education they continue to provide. Whomever is on the board, I hope they maintain the highest quality.”’
“There are a lot of good trustees on the board and a lot of good candidates vying for the positions. All of us are going to win because of the quality of people,” Hastings said.
The Regional and The Reporter newspapers
MVCC BOARD CANDIDATES
Beth McElroy Kirkwood
Joseph P. Murphy
Brendan F. Houlihan
Patricia Joan Murphy