Oak Park resident Kevin Peppard has filed objections against the filing petitions of village trustee candidates Anthony Clark and Chibuike Enyia, questioning their eligibility to serve the village in an elected capacity after the coming April election.
The objections will go before the Municipal Officers Electoral Board of the Village of Oak Park. Statute dictates board membership, which consists of Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb, senior Trustee Jim Taglia and Village Clerk Vicki Scaman. The board will preside over the objection hearings, scheduled to take place virtually Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 2 p.m.
Clark and Enyia are the only two Black men running for village trustee, leading some in the community to question Peppard’s motivation.
Community group Black Residents of Oak Park, part of the Represent Oak Park coalition backing Clark and Enyia, issued a statement regarding Peppard’s objections.
“The very nature of his challenges questions the validity and characters of two good Black men who are community leaders, mentors, and community providers,” the press release reads.
Both candidates have publicly rejected Peppard’s claims, with Clark sending out a press release and Enyia posting a statement on Facebook.
In Clark’s case, Peppard’s objection states that Clark does not meet the residency requirement for village trustee, asserting that Clark lives in west suburban Lombard and not Oak Park. To back up his claim, Peppard cited Clark’s voluntary bankruptcy paperwork, filed last April, wherein Clark listed his primary address as one in Lombard and his mailing address as a home on North Lombard Avenue in Oak Park. The objection provides Clark’s most recent tax bill, which includes residential property tax exemption.
In an interview with Wednesday Journal, Clark confirmed that he purchased the Lombard property in 2016 but stated it was never his place of residence.
“I have never lived there,” Clark said.
He made the purchase to house a child he believed was his and the child’s mother.
“With the help of my parents, I purchased the property. The young woman and the child lived at that property for years,” said Clark. “It was revealed that the child was not mine biologically.”
Clark said he still views himself as the child’s father and that he paid all of the bills associated with the property, while he lived with his parents in their Oak Park home, where he said he continues to live.
He told Wednesday Journal he tried to sell the Lombard property at one time but was unable to. It is now being used to help others within his family in need of a place to live.
“As long as that property is in my family’s possession, we will utilize it to support loved ones who are in greater need than we are,” Clark said.
In Peppard’s objection against Enyia, Peppard alleges that Enyia was charged and convicted in Iowa with a drug-related felony over a decade ago. According to the objection, Peppard found the information on Enyia through online background check website TruthFinder.Com.
Illinois election law dictates that any such person convicted of a felony offense cannot hold public office.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Enyia wrote that Peppard’s allegations against him are “clearly and unequivocally” “false and defamatory.”
“Not only did Mr. Peppard file an objection based upon these false allegations, but he also rushed to publish these defamatory statements online knowing and acknowledging that he has been unable to confirm the status of these cases with the local authorities,” Enyia wrote.
Peppard shared that he had filed objections against Clark and Enyia in a Dec. 29 Facebook post.
“I hope that Mr. Peppard will issue a formal apology and retract his statements. If not, he can expect to hear from my attorney,” said Enyia.
Documents obtained by Wednesday Journal through Freedom of Information Act requests confirm Peppard did not request to view the petition filings of any other trustee candidate besides Clark and Enyia.
In an email to Wednesday Journal, Peppard stated he conducted background checks on all the candidates and that he only requested to view Clark’s and Enyia’s petition filings for address verification purposes.
Peppard, who has challenged candidate petitions regularly over many years, denied his objections were racially motivated, stating in his email,
“I’ve thrown numerous white people off the ballot: Carlotta Lucchesi, Daniel Lupiani, Carolyn Lang, and Dan Avers (wrote the papers), Emily Masalski (four years ago), and Les Golden several times.”
Black Residents of Oak Park noted in their press release that Peppard also challenged the 2017 petitions of Peter Barber and Glenn Brewer, two Black village board incumbents who lost their reelection bids. In that same election season, Peppard also challenged at least four other candidates for either village trustee or village clerk.