McHenry County Sheriff Candidacy Objection ResolvedBy Erik Sivertsen
Objections to candidate petitions have become a normal part of the political process. After candidates file their petitions to get on the ballot, voters are given an opportunity to object to any candidate who wants to be on the ballot. The law is very specific about how the pages have to be numbered, stapled and filled out, and then finally filed with the election authority. Sometimes objections can be seen as frivolous or get labeled as dirty politics. Not all objections are related to whether they stapled the pages or used a paperclip; sometimes they get into whether the candidate meets the qualifications for office.
Fortunately in McHenry County there was only one objection filed for the June 28th Primary election, and that objection was made by 2 voters against Tony Colatorti's candidacy for Sheriff. The basis of their objection was rooted in a new Illinois law that was passed in January of last year. That bill deals with all sorts of police reforms, including ending cash bail and requiring body cams for all police officers by 2025. Up until this election cycle, voters were free to choose any candidate to be their sheriff who met 3 qualifications:
(1) Is a United States citizen.
(2) Has been a resident of the county for at least one year.
(3) Is not a convicted felon.
The Illinois General Assembly has decided that we needed to add a 4th qualification:
(4) Has a certificate attesting to his or her successful completion of the Minimum Standards Basic Law Enforcement Officers Training Course as prescribed by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board or a substantially similar training program of another state or the federal government.
The objectors have said that Tony Colatorti did not have that certificate and that asserting he met the qualifications to be a candidate for sheriff on his statement of candidacy was false because he had not completed the Minimum Standards Basic Law Enforcement Training Course.
During the hearing today Tony testified that his certificate does not, on its face, say that he has completed the Minimum Standards Basic Law Enforcement Training Course. The part that may surprise some people is, the certificate submitted by his opponent doesn't say that he completed the Minimum Standards Basic Law Enforcement Training Course either. In fact, they have almost exactly the same certificate. The difference between their certificates is that his opponent's certificate says that it "certifies the fulfillment of all requirements as prescribed by Chapter 50 Paragraph 705 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes and is qualified as a Law Enforcement Officer" and Tony's says "certifies the fulfillment of all requirements as prescribed by Chapter 50 Paragraph 705/8.2 of Illinois Compiled Statutes and is qualified as a Law Enforcement Officer Part Time".
So, what is the Minimum Standards Basic Law Enforcement Training Course? In Illinois, police training is overseen by the Illinois Law Enforcement Standards Training Board. They have set the standards for what must be contained in the curriculum of a police academy in Illinois and they approve those programs according to Chapter 50 Paragraph 705 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes. Those programs that have been approved as complying with 50 ILCS 705 are the course known as the Minimum Standards Basic Law Enforcement Training Course.
50 ILCS 705/8.2, the section mentioned on Tony's certificate, specifically lays out the requirements for a "Part Time" police academy. So the question then becomes, is Tony Colatorti's certificate for the "Part Time" police academy that he attended the same as a certificate for a full-time police academy?
For today's hearing they brought in John Keigher, who is the Chief Legal Counsel for the Illinois Law Enforcement Standards Training Board as an expert in Illinois police training requirements.
He testified to several important things. He testified that the part-time officer training is by state law the same as the full-time training, and must be the same number of hours of training. That comes directly from 50 ILCS 705/8.2. He also testified that the requirement in 1999 when Tony completed his training, was that the part-time and full-time training had to be the same as well. He even said that the pool of questions for the test to qualify for certification as a police officer was the same for both courses. Ultimately he testified that the certificate that Tony Colatorti submitted was a certificate attesting to his completion of the Minimum Standards Basic Law Enforcement Officers Training Course as prescribed by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board.
Based on the testimony and evidence, the McHenry County Electoral Board has found that Tony Colatorti did submit the necessary certificate and does meet the required qualifications and the objection to his petitions is being denied.
Now the objectors have until Tuesday to decide if they would like to continue further and seek judicial review of the Electoral Board's decision. Neither of them were present at the hearing. Neither of them have been present for any of the hearing process, so I was unable to ask them what they plan to do. For now, Tony Colatorti's name will remain on the ballot.