Oak Park village trustee candidate Anthony Clark will not appear on the April ballot per the ruling Monday from the Oak Park Municipal Officers Electoral Board. In a written statement sent to Wednesday Journal, Clark denounced the process under which his candidacy was found ineligible.
“Those who believe in true Democracy, in allowing the people to decide elections, were silenced today,” Clark said in his statement. “Instead of a hearing to determine where I reside, it was an opportunity for current leaders who share different ideological viewpoints to attempt to assassinate my character.”
The electoral board ruled that Clark did not meet the residency requirement necessary to secure a place on the ballot and serve in an elected capacity. The decision came during Clark’s final hearing Jan. 25.
According to Clark’s statement, he and his campaign are evaluating next steps which could include appealing the electoral board’s decision to the Cook County Circuit Court. Clark did not explicitly state whether he intends to file an appeal.
“Attacking me won’t stop the movement and as a Black man who will continue to dedicate his life to the community of Oak Park, I recognize that when you rock the boat, you better be able to swim,” Clark’s statement reads.
Board members Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb and senior village board trustee Jim Taglia voted to sustain the objection against Clark, filed by resident Kevin Peppard. Village Clerk Vicki Scaman, the board’s third member and herself a candidate for village president, supported Clark remaining on the ballot.
“There’s been a lot of sworn testimony in federal court in particular,” said Taglia. “That is to me indicative that Anthony is not a resident of Oak Park.”
Peppard presented as evidence Clark’s April 2020 bankruptcy filing, wherein Clark listed his parents’ Oak Park home as his mailing address and his property in west suburban Lombard as his permanent residence. Further evidence brought forward by Peppard included Clark’s August 2020 property tax bill, which showed a residential property tax exemption on the Lombard address.
“I do agree that this is a very difficult case,” said Scaman.
She believed the evidence pointed to Clark having a residence in Lombard but not one that she could definitively say was his primary home.
“His physical presence here in Oak Park is undeniable. His commitment to Oak Park is undeniable,” said Scaman. “I can’t find anything to believe that he resides in Lombard.”
Clark has maintained during the hearings that he lives fulltime with his parents, whom he cares for, in Oak Park on Lombard Avenue but that he purchased the suburban Lombard property to house what he believed to be his biological child and the child’s mother. He stated under oath that he has never lived in Lombard. His mother Blanche Clark also stated under oath that Clark lives with her and her husband in their Oak Park home.
Clark’s attorney Ed Mullen stated in his closing arguments that Clark listed the Lombard townhouse in his bankruptcy filing as his primary residence because it was the only property Clark owned and for which he was financially responsible. The Lombard residence, according to Mullen, is also not an income-generating property.
“His understanding of ‘residence’ and where he ‘lived’ when he signed the bankruptcy petition was primarily a financial answer for purposes of the bankruptcy code rather than an answer of physical presence and intent to remain for purposes of municipal and election law,” Mullen stated in his closing argument.
He further argued that Clark believed he qualified for the homestead tax exemption on his Lombard property because it generated no income and it was the only property under his ownership.
Whether made in error, the municipal board found Clark’s listed addresses in his bankruptcy filing and tax bill hurt his credibility and character.
“I am concerned that we don’t have any information as to whether he intends to correct exemptions that he’s taken, but I don’t believe that is for this board to be judging,” said Scaman.
Taglia mentioned that perjury, or lying under oath, can result in a hefty financial fine or prison time. If they were simply paperwork mistakes, Taglia reasoned, the board had no way of knowing if Clark intends to fix them.
“This goes to credibility,” said Taglia. “You would think that if somebody made four or five serious errors in paperwork that they would try to at least explain how they’re going to undo that.”
Clark’s attorney Ed Mullen argued that affidavits submitted by Clark and the testimony of his mother demonstrated that Clark was physically present in Oak Park from April up until the present, as well as that Clark spends most of his nights in his parents’ home or with his girlfriend, who also resides in Oak Park.
“I don’t think that the affidavits, although they were helpful, and they were strongly considered,” said Taglia. “They don’t carry the same weight as the other evidence.”
Abu-Taleb felt similarly to Taglia regarding the evidence presented against Clark, which included a loan obtained by Clark’s parents through the village of Oak Park. When applying for the loan, Clark’s parents did not disclose Anthony Clark’s income.
Clark’s income, had it been included, would have made them ineligible to receive the loan. His mother swore in testimony that she did not know and was not told that she and her husband needed to include Clark’s income in the loan application.
According to Abu-Taleb, the funds from the loan come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the application for the loan requires listing everyone in the household over the age of 18. Abu-Taleb also stated that there is a waiting list to receive these loans in Oak Park.
“The Clark family decides not to list Anthony as an income in that household and they get the $24,100 when they shouldn’t,” said Abu-Taleb. “That actually denies another family from getting it.”
The loan document submitted as evidence does not show whether the Clark family actually received the amount stated by Abu-Taleb; rather, the document states “the Village’s Chief Financial Officer is authorized and directed to loan up to $24,180.00 and grant up to $8,590.00 in [Community Development Block Grant] funds to the Owners…”
“We have a character issue,” said Abu-Taleb. “We have someone who is lying under oath.”
Abu Taleb continued, “We have someone that chooses to decide which household they belong to, based on what works best for them. I struggle with that.”
Scaman said she didn’t disagree with Abu-Taleb’s views on the subject but that it was not within the boards purview to determine whether Clark had committed perjury.
“This is a tough position for all of us,” said Scaman, who added she was not deciding whom she was voting for in the election nor was she deciding whether any judicial bodies should follow up with Clark.
“I am being asked to determine whether he has laid his head in Oak Park over the last year and whether the intention is for him to continue to live and reside in Oak Park,” said Scaman. “I don’t have any reason to believe he’s not going to.”