Oak Park trustee candidate Chibuike Enyia will officially be on the ballot for the April 6 municipal election. However, it remains to be seen if the ballot will include Anthony Clark, also running for trustee.
Resident Kevin Peppard filed objections against both candidates, but the Oak Park Municipal Electoral Board unanimously voted to dismiss the objection against Enyia during his second hearing Jan. 12. That same day, the board moved to continue Clark’s hearing.
“I encourage Mr. Enyia to pursue a vigorous campaign and best of luck to him,” said Peppard following the objection dismissal. “I appreciate the work he has done in mentoring youth in recent years.”
Peppard’s challenge against Enyia alleged that the candidate had a drug-related felony conviction that occurred in Iowa, which would make him ineligible to hold public office under Illinois law. Enyia’s attorney Ed Mullen argued that although Enyia was charged he was not convicted.
“Conviction was never made part of the record. It’s as though it doesn’t exist,” said Mullen.
Enyia’s case resulted in a deferred judgement, according to Mullen, which is a plea agreement allowing the defendant an opportunity to complete a period of probation prior to any entry of conviction.
“He did receive probation and he completed that,” said Mullen, who also stated that “the entire charge disappeared after three years.”
The local electoral board – which consists of Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb, senior village trustee Jim Taglia and Village Clerk Vicki Scaman – ruled that there was not enough evidence to support Peppard’s claim and dismissed the challenge.
“We’re a nation of second chances. I know that the laws today, with regard to the substance abuse laws you’ve been accused of, have changed,” Abu-Taleb told Enyia.
Abu-Taleb continued, saying he knew that those laws have disproportionately impacted Black and Brown people.
“I am sorry that during the process of you seeking to serve the village that you have been challenged on that, but I also understand Mr. Peppard’s motivation,” the mayor said.
Abu-Taleb told Peppard that he believed his motivation, like anyone else’s, was that he wanted the best for Oak Park.
During the opening statements of Clark’s hearing, Peppard addressed assertions made by the public that his challenges against the candidates, both of whom are Black, were racially motivated.
“That is not the case,” said Peppard. “I bring these cases forward based upon law and the facts.”
Peppard told the board that he has been attacked in the press and by the public for challenges that have been deemed “racist” and, in Clark’s case, meant to criticize the candidate’s financial situation.
The objection lodged against Clark claims that he does not meet the residency requirement for a candidacy. Peppard used Clark’s bankruptcy filing as evidence, as Clark claimed an address in Lombard as his primary residence in the paperwork and his parents’ home in Oak Park as his mailing address.
“I had a picketer outside my home call me a member of the Ku Klux Klan,” said Peppard.
He called it ironic that the picketer invoked the KKK because a Klansmen had threatened harm to his father’s farmhouse in 1920.
“And then had his nose broken while walking to school on a country road,” said Peppard of his father. “His sin was being an Irish Catholic.”
Peppard said he “condemned” the attack that occurred Jan. 6 outside Oak Park’s Live Café, where a brick carrying a note with a racial slur was thrown at one of the café’s windows. Live Café is serving as the campaign headquarters for Black village board candidates, including Clark and Enyia.
“Let’s get on to the business of these hearings,” said Peppard.
Mullen, who is also representing Clark, cross-examined his client and presented several documents, including Clark’s driver’s license and his dog’s rabies vaccination paperwork. In each of the presented documents, Clark listed the Oak Park address as his primary residence.
In addition to Clark’s bankruptcy filing, Peppard submitted as evidence a copy of the property tax bill on the Lombard property.
Clark told the board that while he does own that property in Lombard, he has never lived there permanently or for any extended period of time. It was purchased to house what he believed to be his biological son and the child’s mother.
After the child and his mother moved out, Clark tried to sell the residence but was unable to. He stated he could not lease it to any tenants due to the rules of the homeowner association.
Blanche Clark, Clark’s mother who was called as a witness, testified that her son permanently resides with her and his father in their Oak Park home. Throughout the hearing, Clark maintained he lives in Oak Park.
“You’re an Oak Park resident just like I am,” Clark told Peppard.
Mullen and Peppard were asked to submit closing arguments by 5 p.m., Jan. 14. Clark’s hearing will resume at 10:30 a.m., Jan. 19.