Embattled Broadview Village President Sherman Jones and his Public Works Director Matthew Ames are fighting to keep the results of the Nov. 8 mayoral term-limit referendum top secret until the Illinois Supreme Court can rule on whether the referendum language is “unclear.”
A campaign to impose term limits on any mayor of Broadview, which has a population of 8,000, who’s served two consecutive terms puts the bulls-eye on Jones, who claims progress in the village has come to a “standstill” because of an uncooperative board of trustees. Jones has been mayor since 2009.
“They couldn’t get me off the ballot by voting, so now they want to get me out with term limits,” said Jones. “I wouldn’t have a problem with this if it applied to all trustees, but it’s specifically targeting me.”
The term-limits amendment was filed by former Village Clerk and one-time mayoral challenger Maxine Johnson, who served from 2009-13. Johnson was not available for comment.
Johnson’s term-limits petitions passed an election board hearing. But Ames, public works director, filed a challenge saying among other things, that the language on the referendum was unclear about just how the two consecutive terms were to be understood.
An appellate court of three judges permitted the term limits question to appear on the ballot, but then ordered Cook County Clerk David Orr to withhold the Broadview election results until an expedited appeal ruling from the State Supreme Court has been issued.
Broadview village government is limping along in what some trustees view as a dysfunctional way. The town website has not been updated for years (Jones says his trustees won’t approve bills to pay the webmaster). The town has had no village clerk since July. The village is also being sued by the Broadview Public Library in Cook County Chancery Court. The library’s suit alleges village employees under Jones’ control, have allegedly stalled and tried to sabotage the construction of the library’s planned $4 million addition.
Elsewhere in the court system, the village has been embroiled for more than a decade in a federal lawsuit filed by a strip club operation called Chicago Joes Tea Room, LLC. The club’s owners sued Broadview in 2007 for $10 million when trustees refused to give the club a special zoning variance. Since then, along with filing and responding to around 400 briefs in federal court, trustees have passed an “adult use” zone in town, near an industrial park. The case has not yet gone to court.
In a phone interview, Jones accused his fellow trustees of being under the influence of “strip club owners” and not properly declaring their campaign contributions. But the Illinois State Board of Elections ruled on at least four occasions that campaign committees affiliated with Jones have filed incomplete or improper campaign contribution reports. Jones’ committees have paid more than $10,000 in civil penalties to the ISBE between 2010 and 2016.
Jones’ campaign mailers featured photos of strip club interiors with the text, “On Nov. 8 you can step up and say ‘No!’ to stripper poles in Broadview.”
Trustee Judy Brown-Marino, who once ran unsuccessfully for mayor against Jones, said she thought term limits for all trustees could be a good idea.
“I think term limits are something we should think about, especially with what we’ve had in Broadview where mayor [Meritt] Braga served for 40 years [1938-78],” Brown-Marino said. “Frankly two or three terms would be OK, but in a small town like ours it’s difficult enough to find people to run, and harder to find people who have any clue. In a small community like ours, you don’t get a lot of involvement,” she said.
If the Illinois Supreme Court upholds the State Appellate Court ruling, the election results will be released, but if the ruling is overturned, Jones said, voters will never know whether mayoral term limits passed.
“The [Cook County] Clerk’s office is enjoined in the complaint,” Jones said. “They’re not going to release results yet. If we prevail at the Supreme Court level, the results will not ever be revealed.”
— Broadview term limits votes under wraps until Supreme Court ruling —