The fate of an advisory referendum on merging River Forest village and township governments will soon be in the hands of a three-person village electoral board after objections were filed questioning the validity of some signatures on petitions backing a November referendum.

The electoral board, whose make up is determined by state law, will meet later this month to determine whether the question can be certified for the Nov. 4 ballot. The local board will consist of Village President Catherine Adduci, Trustee Susan Conti and Clerk Sharon Halperin. The date for the public hearing has not yet been set.

Both Adduci and Conti have in the past publicly supported the concept of a merger of the two government bodies.

River Forest Village Trustee Tom Dwyer, an opponent of both the merger and the referendum, filed an objection last week with the local election board stating that his and his wife’s signatures were forged on the petitions seeking to place the merger on the ballot. 

Dwyer said he learned that his signature as well as his wife’s were on the petitions when he got a call from fellow Trustee Carmela Corsini, who asked him why he signed a petition. 

“She knew I was pretty outspoken about the township, and that I did not want to pursue HB 4425,” he said. HB 4425 is the legislation that if it had succeeded last spring would have allowed a binding referendum on consolidation. “I looked at them saw my and my wife’s name,” Dwyer said. “They were not our signatures.” 

Dwyer also filed a criminal complaint with the River Forest Police Department.

On Monday afternoon, residents Pierangela Murphy and Patricia Marino came forward with objections claiming that there aren’t enough valid signatures to place the question on the ballot because a number of the signers were not registered voters or their signatures were not genuine.

The two also contend that some nomination papers contained numerous sheets circulated by individuals whose sheets “demonstrate a pattern of fraud and disregard of the election code to such a degree that every sheet circulated by that individual is invalid,” according to their objections. Two of those sheets contained the names of Dwyer and his wife Amy.

Murphy and Marino also state that the signature sheets are not consecutively numbered and that the form of the referendum does not pose a question in the proper form and is vague. 

James Nally, an election attorney representing Marino and Murphy, said Tuesday that he was retained by them in the last several days. He said volunteers were at the County Clerk’s Office checking voter rolls; he did not say how many. Citing attorney-client privilege, he did not disclose who was paying his bill. 

Rick Gillis, one of the contacts for the pro-referendum effort, commented that “this is the democratic process at work.  People submit petitions for their cause, and people object to petitions for their cause. At this point, all we can do is wait for the election board’s ruling.” 

River Forest Trustee Tom Cargie, a supporter of the merger and one of about 12 petition circulators, said  “Why would they put up such a fight over something that asks a simple question?”

The advisory question would be the first of a three-step process that would, if all elements are successful, lead to consolidation between the village and township governments.

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