A battle-tested Joseph Makula stepped to the Niles village clerk's counter Friday afternoon to officially file a question he wants placed on the April 6, 2013 ballot. It would limit the Niles mayor and trustees to no more than 16 years in office.
The scene was a deja vu from July, when Makula filed a similar petition, with 1,018 signatures. Except this time, Makula was accompanied by an attorney. And having suffered a petition challenge by the village of Niles and a subsequent court defeat, Makula is wiser on to how to dot the i's and cross the t's of an election petition.
Earlier: Village of Niles Challenges Petition in Court
Earlier: Judge Dismisses Petition: Now What?
Now, in Round 2 of the term limits battle in Niles, the situation has complicated.
Since a judge struck down the July petition, the Niles village board passed its own version of a term limits ordinance at its Nov. 13 meeting. That ordinance limits the time served to three terms (12 years) for a trustee and two terms (eight years) for a mayor, with a total possible service of five terms.
The clock would start running if and when the referendum passes, so that the fact two trustees, Andrew Przybylo and Louella Preston, have already served 20-plus years would not count.
If Makula's citizens' petition gets on the ballot, its time-limiting ability would go into effect four years from the April 2013 election.
"If Andrew and Louella win this election, they would likely be able to serve four years until 2017," Makula said, and his attorney, John G. Fogarty, confirmed that.
"Their term limits (the village board's ordinance) would go into effect in 2024," Makula added.
"And both these term limit referendums could be on the April ballot next to each other. People could vote yes for both."
That could present a unique, or very rare, case in election law, Makula and Fogarty said, and legal and good-government organizations or scholars may study the case.
Fogarty specializes in election law. Last spring, on behalf of Rep. Judy Biggert, he successfully challenged her primary challengers' petitions and they were prevented from getting on the ballot, he said.
The petition Makula and Fogarty filed Friday contains 67 pages and about 960 of what Makula called "high quality" signatures, or more than enough to satisfy the requirements for getting a citizen-initiated measure onto the ballot as a referendum.