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Three St. Charles School Board candidates will remain on ballot

Kane County Electoral Board rejects objections to nominating petitions

St. Charles East High School building
St. Charles East High School building

The names of three St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 School Board candidates will remain on the April 2 election ballot after the Kane County Electoral Board on Jan. 8 dismissed and overruled objections to their nominating petitions.

District resident Danielle Penman had filed objections to the nominating petitions of St. Charles School Board President Kathleen Hewell, who is finishing her fourth term on the board, along with Vice President Nick Manheim, who is finishing his second term on the board. Penman also filed objections to the nominating petition of former District 303 assistant superintendent Rebecca "Becky" McCabe, who is seeking a seat on the board.

As part of her objections, Penman alleged that Hewell obtained signatures of sitting board members and obtained signatures on a petition for another candidate, Manheim. She said such actions violated the guidelines established by the Illinois Association of School Boards, which have been adopted by the St. Charles School Board.

In response, Hewell argued that having other school board members sign her petitions and circulating a petition for another candidate was not a violation of the Illinois Election Code. In her objections against Manheim's petition, Penman argued the petition was circulated by Hewell, which was a violation of the district's ethics and gift ban.

Penman also argued that McCabe had a conflict of interest running for the school board because of her employment with the school district and Mid-Valley Special Education Cooperative. She argued that a school board member cannot be an employee of the district.

McCabe submitted documents to the Kane County Electoral Board stating that she is not currently employed by the district or Mid-Valley. She also testified that she currently works for the DuPage Regional Office of Education and North Central College.

In dismissing Penman's objections, the Electoral Board said it does not have jurisdiction to consider violations of outside policies or ethical codes that are not contained within the Illinois Election Code. In addition, the board said it does not have jurisdiction to consider conflicts of interest based on a candidate's employment.

"The Electoral Board has limited authority, jurisdiction, and it does not have jurisdiction delving into matters outside of the Election Code," Electoral Board Chairman Robert Sandner said, in addressing Penman.

In Hewell's case, the Electoral Board agreed with her request to dismiss Penman's objection to her petition. The board also overruled the objections of Penman to the petitions of Manheim and McCabe.

Hewell said she was happy with the Electoral Board's ruling.

"We are all pleased that Danielle Penman has failed in her personally motivated ridiculous and false attacks against three excellent candidates," Hewell said following the hearing. "For myself, I will continue my best efforts on behalf of the children, community and taxpayers of D-303."

In addition, Manheim said he felt "validated."

"I don't believe that my signatures were invalid," he said. "I feel confident that I had the proper amount of signatures required and that they were done correctly."

McCabe also said she was happy with the Electoral Board's decision.

"I'm looking forward to the campaign and meeting people and talking about what I can bring to the table and to the board and my experiences as a educator," she said after the hearing.

Penman said she was disappointed by the Electoral Board's rulings. However, she took note of the issues that she raised through her objections and didn't rule out bringing her objections before another body.

"I do value and appreciate the Electoral Board taking the time to review this," she said after the hearing. "There might be other jurisdictions that oversee the school board and administration that might be able to look into what occurred."

Penman said she filed her objections in order to hold school board members accountable to following the rules.

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