NEAR WEST SIDE — Two former alderman face subpoenas ordering them to answer questions about their role in circulating petitions for a man running against Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) — but one of them says he avoided the subpoena by tripping over his dog.
Former Ald. Wallace Davis, Jr., who is helping candidate Gabe Beukinga challenge Burnett, said Wednesday that a sheriff's deputy came to his door early Sunday with a summons.
But Davis said he fell over his Doberman Pinscher on the way to the door, landing on the floor and injuring himself.
"[After that] I think he saw the dog and decided to leave," Davis said of the sheriff's deputy.
Also subpoenaed was Rickey Hendon, a former alderman and state senator also working for Beukinga.
Hendon blasted the way Beukinga's candidacy is being challenged, saying people who merely signed a petition in support of Beukinga are also being subpoenaed.
Hendon said he got his subpoena at 6 a.m. Sunday while at home.
"I answered the door in my draws because they can kiss my black a--," the former state senator said in Facebook post.
"The people are mad at Walter. I don't need to be mad at him," Hendon later said in interview. "But hell yeah, I can't stand his a--."
The former politicians are among a group told to appear Friday at a Chicago Board of Elections hearing.
The elections board is hearing an objection to Beukinga's candidacy. If successful, it would eliminate the candidacy of Burnett's only opponent in the February election to represent the 27th Ward in the Chicago City Council.
Hearing officer Barbara Goodman will consider the objection at a hearing at 10 a.m. Friday in an 8th floor conference room at 69 W. Washington St.
The objection challenging Beukinga's petitions, filed by East Garfield Park resident Vashon Briscoe and Garfield Park resident Priscilla Yates, argues that Beukinga's petitions contain forged signatures and were "roundtabled," alleging that the same people were signing the petition sheets multiple times.
Beukinga said this week that Briscoe and Yates are "straw" objectors acting on behalf of Burnett. Briscoe lives in a building owned by the alderman, according to Burnett's campaign disclosure form. Election records show that Yates is a paid employee of the 27th Ward Regular Democratic Organization; Burnett serves as committeeman of the group.
The subpoenas "were a ridiculous request from the get-go," Beukinga said.
He said that more than 1,000 of his petition signatures were deemed valid as part of the Board of Elections' records examination process. A candidate had to collect 473 valid signatures to land on the 27th Ward ballot.
The objectors' attorneys are now challenging that analysis, claiming that the Board's record examiners made numerous errors during the petition review, according to a motion filed Tuesday.
Beukinga said he remains "100 percent sure" that he will land a ballot spot.
"Burnett and Rahm [Emanuel] realize this is just part of a game of kicking the can down the road," he said. "We expect it will be fully resolved Friday."
Burnett did not return calls this week, but issued a statement through a campaign spokesman: "27th Ward voters deserve a fair and honest election, and the discovery of the facts in this case ensures that process."
Attorney Steven Laduzinsky, representing the objectors, did not return calls.
Hendon: Subpoenas are 'runaway slave roundup'
Hendon, who admits that his relationship with Burnett is strained, said he believes the alderman is targeting him for supporting his challenger. Beukinga is also being backed by two other former 27th Ward aldermen — Wallace Davis, Jr. and Dexter Watson.
The three men all served as alderman of the 27th Ward before Burnett was elected to the seat in 1995. After serving as alderman, Hendon went on to serve as Illinois state senator of the 5th District for 18 years, before resigning in February 2011. In fall 2010, a federal grand jury issued subpoenas for state grants sponsored by Hendon. Hendon was not charged in the case.
In the election challenge, documents show attorneys also intended to subpoena Davis, another former 27th Ward alderman, but that attempt was ultimately unsuccessful. Davis credited his Doberman with scaring off the deputy assigned to serve him.
About 35 people were served with subpoenas after Goodman, the hearing officer, granted the request issued by the objectors' attorneys, records show.
Hendon said senior citizens and college students who have been subpoenaed in the case "are being treated like criminals."
"When [a sheriff's deputy] shows up at your door, opening their badge [with] a gun on the waist, it makes people not want to participate in the election process," Hendon said. "It's voter suppression — black voter suppression — all the way. Walter Burnett should be ashamed of himself."
Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen said that it is not uncommon for subpoenas to be issued during the review of ballot challenges.
"If the objection raises questions about the circulators and/or matters related to residency, subpoenas can be issued," he said.
Hendon said that individual signers, not only circulators, were also served.
"You have to go through this B.S. because you signed somebody's petition? Really?" Hendon said. "This is a runaway slave roundup."
Beukinga said the legal move to issue subpoenas is "absolutely voter intimidation and voter suppression."
"We had a 50-50 mix of circulators, but the subpoenas focused on all of the African American circulators," the candidate said.
Burnett on Beukinga: 'Pattern of Fraud'
Earlier this month, Burnett said that Beukinga's petitions were marred by "a pattern of fraud."
In the complaint against Beukinga, the objectors allege that the candidate employed Hendon to gather a team to circulate petitions. Campaign records show that Beukinga has paid Hendon $8,950 for consulting services.
Hendon, in turn, paid a number of circulators, including Davis, the former 27th Ward alderman, according to the complaint. Those paid circulators had people who were not qualified voters or were not 27th Ward residents sign the petitions in some cases, or forged signatures by "roundtabling the petitions," the objection alleges.
Hendon was also hired to circulate petitions for mayoral candidate Willie Wilson, who circulated and obtained 47,000 signatures in one week, according to the complaint.
"Some people signed Gabe's petitions more than once, or signed Willie Wilson's 80 times, which shows that they were roundtabling," Burnett said in mid-December. "We have a pattern of fraud."
Last week, Mayor Emanuel's re-election campaign dropped its challenge to the petitions filed by Wilson.
Hendon confirmed that he worked with Beukinga's campaign to gather signatures and has paid circulators a small per-signature fee to gather petition signatures.
"There's nothing wrong with black people being paid," he said.
In 2007 and 2011 races, the percentage of candidates who were successfully knocked off the ballot was about 28-29 percent, according to AlderTrack figures.
In November, the 31-year-old Beukinga admitted he had a "drunken breakdown" after sending a series of angst-filled emails to Andy Gloor, managing principal of Sterling Bay, an influential West Loop developer. In the emails, Beukinga threatened to "crush" the developer and accused the firm of engaging in "pay-to-play politics" with Burnett.
Later that month, Beukinga quit his job as a lending executive at SomerCor 504 to focus on the campaign full-time.
Burnett, 51, is seeking his sixth term in office.
The diverse 27th Ward includes parts of the West Loop, Greek Town, Garfield Park, the Near North Side, Old Town, West Humboldt Park, West Town, the Medical District and Goose Island neighborhoods.
The election is Feb. 24.
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