Mclemore candidacy objection skirts election protocol

Gregory Harutunian for Chronicle Media

Community activist Ralph Peterson (left), Paul Calusinski, and Clyde Mclemore following a status hearing for Melissa Calusinski last year. Peterson and Mclemore were vocal in their support of the Calusinski family. (Photo by Gregory Harutunian/for Chronicle Media)

During a Feb. 16 press conference, following the surrender of former Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd on felony indictments, his attorney, Jed Stone, declined to comment on questions of whether he felt the nature of the charges were retaliatory for Rudd’s participation in changing the manner and cause of death in several high-profile criminal cases.

Lake County Black Lives Matter Chairman Clyde Mclemore, stated, before cameras, “Well, if you won’t … I will. It was because he wouldn’t kiss the ring … of Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim.”

The next day, Mclemore was served with a court summons over his candidacy for a seat on Zion Elementary School District 6’s school board in the April 4 consolidated election against incumbent Patricia Stephens.

“I believe they are related, because of the time frame, and I worked on Dr. Rudd’s campaign,” he said. “They went outside the election process for objections to my candidacy, and went to the state’s attorney to put this through the court system. I’ve been vocal about the district last November, with the handling of the pot incident. Where was the protection for our children?”

At issue is the bypass of election procedures relating to an objection of candidacy through the Lake County Clerk’s Office. The objection is heard at a subsequent Electoral Board of Review hearing for a determination. Mclemore and his defense attorney, Matthew Stanton, have highlighted that the matter went directly to the circuit court without due process.

A further complication involves Mclemore’s name appearing on the ballot, due to the March 14 printing date, as required by law, ahead of the initial court date of Mar. 21, leaving the option of the sole legal recourse being not reporting votes cast for him in the election.

“The court allowed us to file a motion for dismissal, which was done March 10,” said Stanton. “That will be heard March 21, and if it’s not successful, then the formal hearing is March 29. The state’s attorney is asking that he be removed from the ballot, and alternately, to have his votes not counted. The issue is the election process.”

The problem evolved from a letter sent to Dist. 6 superintendent Keeley Roberts, dated Jan. 24, from a resident, Kim Chesser that questioned Mclemore’s ability to run as a candidate with felony convictions on his record, and “how to stop this?” Board president Craig Bennett then forwarded a letter to the state’s attorney’s office that cited election law, and attached a certified copy of Mclemore’s felony convictions.

The Bennett letter said, in part: “… it is our understanding that your office … has the authority to file an action in accordance with the Illinois Code of Civil Procedures to remove a board candidate from the ballot. We further understand that your office filed such action in 2015 due to a felony conviction that rendered Mr. Mclemore unqualified for office.”

The cited conviction was for unlawful use of movies in 2005, through the sale of bootlegged DVDs, which forced McLemore to drop a 2015 write-in bid for a school board slot.

Election codes also impact the timeframe for the printing of ballots on March 14 for the April 4, 2016 consolidated election. It stipulates that the primary concludes on the last Tuesday of Feb. with the election on the first Tuesday of Apr., although the actual certification of the primary votes takes place at the close business March 20, allowing for late mail-in and provisional ballots.

The due process element of objection is also clear.

“We only deal with objection issues filed with the county’s Electoral Board of Review, and the time period for filing an objection to nominating petitions is long over,” said Lake County Clerk Carla Wyckoff. “As I understand it, someone from the community asked the state’s attorney’s office to take action.

“The last information we have is that there will be another hearing March 21 on a motion for dismissal that was filed, and depending on that, a March 29 hearing,” she said.

Wyckoff noted that the printing of the upcoming consolidated election ballots will commence Mar. 14.

“The option is that the court could order us not to report the votes,” Wyckoff said.

Mclemore, as a community activist, became the chairman for the Lake County chapter of Black Lives Matter and has spoken out on local issues. He helped with the chapter dispensing bottled water in Flint, Mich. in the minority communities affected by tainted water several times, most recently last month.

He intends to fight the effort to block him from participating in the election.

“I believe there is a candidate for the Waukegan School Board, Jeff McBride, that has a felony conviction, and why are they not investigating him? I have worked in transforming my life to one of service to the community. For the state’s attorney’s office to do this, and go around my rights, is not right.”

Requests for comment from the state’s attorney’s office were not obtained at press time, although its communications manager, Cynthia Vargas, did attempt to reach out and left a return message.