Rutland controversy comes to a close
On December 30, Margaret Sanders, an 18-year Sun Citian, was charged with violating a state election regulation about her nominating petition for public office.
Her name was removed from the April 4 ballot in Rutland Township. It took 2 hours at a special township electoral board meeting to do it.
On January 25, a Kane County judge dismissed the charges against Sanders and restored her name to the ballot for a third term as Supervisor of the township. It took about 15 minutes.
The December event was a litany of negative language alleging that Sanders tampered with her nominating petition documents early last December, not long after she submitted them to the township clerk. At that time, she said they were certified as correct and in proper legal order, and she received a receipt for them. On January 25, the scene was much different, as Judge David Ackemann, in soft and measured tones, stated how Illinois election law exonerated Sanders of any wrongdoing and asserted that her name should be restored to the ballot. Sanders is opposed in the April 4 election for Supervisor by Elden Brauer, who also is a Sun City resident.
The removal action was carried out by a 2-1 vote of a three-person township electoral board consisting of elected township trustees Steve Schuldt and John Payson, and township resident Gordon Mueller, serving as a public member. Schuldt and Payson voted against Sanders, and Mueller supported her.
The whole process was started in early December by township resident Richard J. Stack, also a resident of Sun City. He charged in an official objection letter that three eyewitnesses observed Sanders tamper with her petition package after submitting it to the township clerk.
“This is a clear violation of State of Illinois Election Commission rules that stipulate a petition, once filed, cannot be added to or altered,” Stack said.
He also objected to Ray Eaton’s petition for a position on the five-person trustee board. Stack said the pages of Eaton’s petition were inadequately secured by only a paper clip. But a separate electoral board rejected that claim and Eaton remains a candidate for township trustee on April 4.
Sanders, in an interview with the Sun Day, denied strongly that she tampered with her petition.
“I found a separate copy of one of my documents that was in my petition after I got my receipt,” she said. “I asked the clerks if everything with my package was all right. I was told I couldn’t alter or change it, so I left, without touching my documents.”
At the final hearing, Judge Ackemann started by saying there was no actual direct evidence of any violation activity by Sanders.
“The key element here is that the documents were properly filed originally, and were proper later. Access to a ballot is a substantial right, and I see nothing here to prevent that from being granted to Sanders,” Ackemann said.
“I am relieved,” said Sanders after the verdict. More than 30 township residents packed all of the seats in the tiny county courtroom in Geneva, all in support of Sanders. Also present were Township Highway Commissioner Howard Jay Schultz, and Assessor Janet Siers.
Kenneth Shepro, Sanders’ attorney, said, “I’m glad I was able to remedy this situation. The judge pointed out that the appeal by the electoral board was improper. They didn’t fill out the appeal form correctly. I’ve never seen a case supported by less evidence. The December 30 meeting was a circus of errors.”
Stack did not attend the county hearing. In a separate interview with the Sun Day, he denied that any other residents or township officials asked him to file his objection to Sanders. “I believe Sanders is honest and is a nice person, but I do not believe she uses good practices and techniques,” he said. “I’m appalled at the way she runs meetings, and I don’t think a lot of things are done properly. She also has ignored the recommendations of an auditor regarding finances.”
“Ironically, Mr. Schuldt initially invited me to run for supervisor when I was in my last year of teaching school,” Sanders said. “We got along fine at first, but after I terminated a part-time bookkeeper for sub-standard performance he became hostile. Now, he opposes and criticizes me constantly. Since there was no legitimate reason for them to remove my name from the ballot, I believe the complaint was politically motivated.”
Siers and Schultz praised Sanders strongly, and spoke out against the atmosphere of acrimony and controversy in the township. Siers was first elected Rutland Township assessor in 1993 and also has served as Campton Township assessor.
“Rutland Township has a reputation for dirty politics, it goes back many years. Residency requirements have been overlooked, and there is a lot of criticism of some of us at meetings. There have been arguments about the number of people who sign checks and how contracts are awarded to vendors for various work,” Siers said.
“These accusations against Sanders were false,” said Schultz, who has served as the township’s highway commissioner for 12 years. He was particularly critical of current trustees Steve Schuldt, John Payson, and Fred Bulmahn.
“They have cost the taxpayers of Rutland Township thousands in legal fees. They are in it (being trustees) for themselves. It’s wrong what they did to Margaret Sanders,” Schultz.
The Sun Day was unable to contact Schuldt, and Buhlman was on a winter vacation in Florida during this time.
Sanders and her husband, Martin, also a retired teacher, came to Sun City in 1999. She earned an administrative certification in 1999 from National Louis University, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oliver Nazarene University in 1975 and 1979, respectively. She taught math, was a math department chair, and an elementary school principal during a 40-year education career.