All school board candidates remain on ballot

By Jenette Sturges

Sue Grey is a life-long resident of Champaign and mother of two children in the Unit 4 school district. She knew almost everybody who signed her petition to run for Champaign School Board. When her signatures were challenged on Feb. 17, she was more that a little surprised.

“This was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I was a little taken aback at the objections,” she said.

Objections were raised to the petitions of one incumbent on the school board, Nathan Banks, and four hopefuls: Sue Grey, Scott MacAdam, Greg Novak and former Daily Illini columnist John Bambenek on Feb. 17 by Champaign resident David Brayfield. Brayfield dropped the objections Tuesday afternoon at a hearing before the Education Officers Election Board.

Brayfield said he withdrew his objections because the election board was acting in a biased manner based on partisan politics and he felt he would not get a fair hearing.

“If they’re not going to do this fairly, then I’m not going to do this,” he said.

In addition to challenging the authenticity of signatures, Brayfield’s formal objection cited problems with language and how candidates filled the forms out. For example, the objection to candidate MacAdam’s petition said that the petition read MacAdam was applying for “School Board member” instead of “Board of Education member,” the correct term for the position.

Traci Nally, lawyer for all of the candidates except Bambenek, said that the reasons for the formal objections were invalid.

The election board met with Mark Sheldon, county clerk, Monday morning to verify the contested petitions’ signatures against those of registered voters in the county. Of the five petitions, only one petition, that of Nathan Banks, was lacking the number of verified signatures needed. Banks will remain on the ballot, however, because Brayfield withdrew his formal objection during the proceedings.

“I’m not willing to put his head on a block because it’s convenient for them,” Brayfield said.

Brayfield claimed his biggest issue was with the lax attitudes of the election board in investigating the ethics of the candidates.

“It sounded like he withdrew his objection because if he couldn’t disqualify everyone, he wouldn’t disqualify one,” Nally said.

Objections of this manner have not been raised before in Champaign school board elections, and the Education Officers Election Board’s first agenda item Tuesday was to adopt rules of procedure for the meeting.

In total, nine candidates are running for five school board seats in the April 17th city-wide consolidated election.

So while Grey is still on the ballot, she remains puzzled about why her petitions were called into question.

“I’m a life-long resident of this community and I knew the signatures on my petitions were people that I knew and people that I grew up with, people that I see frequently at PTA (parent teacher association) meetings, basketball games … I really don’t know his reasoning,” Grey said.