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Lawyers for the Town of Normal are reviewing candidate petitions for offices that do not exist

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Joe Deacon
/
WGLT

A candidate running for an office that does not currently exist within the Town of Normal government said he was recruited for the job.

Robert Shoraga was one of three Normal residents who filed petitions Nov. 21 for candidacy for offices that either are nonexistent or have historically been an appointed position: Shoraga filed for Town Supervisor (nonexistent); Charles Sila filed for Town Collector (nonexistent) and Amy Conklin filed for Town Clerk (an appointed position).

Shoraga said he wishes to emphasize that his decision to file for office is not in protest or direct support of an effort earlier this year that was aimed at districting the Town of Normal — changing its council elections from an at-large system to a district or ward-based system of representation.

Shoraga said he was largely unaware of the effort, though the position he is running for is directly tied to a legal dispute over that effort.

"The main reason why I got into this is because I have the time at this point in my life. Before, I didn't have very much time," Shoraga told WGLT in an interview. "I have other friends that are in politics and they said, 'Why don't you do this? Do you know about the referendum?' I didn't know anything about it, but out of that came... 'You're supposed to have these positions, elected, not just appointed.' I said, 'OK, let's give it a try.'"

Earlier this year, petitioners throughout Normal gathered signatures in an effort to get a referendum question on the ballot before voters in November: “Should the town be divided into six districts, with one trustee elected from each district?"

After those petitions were presented to the Town Clerk, Normal resident Patrick Dullard filed an objection, saying, in part, that the effort was invalid because a redistricting referendum question like that cannot be asked of towns, according to state law — only villages.

Eventually the matter went to court, and McLean County Associate Judge Scott Kording ruled that state law allows Normal to operate as a town, just like it was chartered in 1867. Shoraga said those who recruited him to run for office claimed that, if Normal was going to be a town, it needed additional governmental positions, including the one he filed for as supervisor.

Shoraga said he sees himself setting up the position of Town Supervisor as setting it up, getting it in motion — and that's it.

"Obviously I'm not going to be around for 20 years like a lot of people in government," he said. "That would be my contribution to the town: Getting it set into motion, set right and that's it."

Normal already has a part-time mayoral position overseeing administrative matters; it is currently unclear what function a town supervisor would serve in the municipality.

Shoraga said he sees the addition of the position as adding more representation within the town government. A man who is "pretty well conservative" politically, Shoraga complimented current Mayor Chris Koos and said he believes many good things have happened in the town under Koos' decades-long tenure.

"People aren't doing this wrong — it's just more representation is going to be better," he said. "And like I said, by law, we should be in compliance — that's all I'm trying to do, is get us in compliance."

Similarly, candidate for Town Collector and accounting firm owner Charles Sila said he, too, believes Normal should have the position he is seeking, according to state law. Sila continued to refer to Normal as a "village," despite Kording's September ruling that Normal is a town, as its charter states.

Sila said he envisions the office "handling (Normal's) finances and conforming to the letter of the law, instead of what people have chosen they want the law to be."

Amy Conklin, who is running for the appointed office for Town Clerk, could not be reached via phone and did not provide an email address when she filed her petition.

After accepting the petitions, Normal officials retained Chicago-based legal firm Kaspar and Nottage P.C. to "review them for legal conformity," spokesperson Cathy Oloffson said in a statement.

"Upon completion of that review, the Town will issue an updated statement and take appropriate action under the state Election Code," Oloffson wrote.

WGLT reached out to Illinois State Board of Elections spokesperson Matt Dietrich to see how often people file petitions of candidacy for offices that do not exist at the time of filing.

"I've never heard of that happening," Dietrich wrote in an email reply.

The general consolidated election the potential candidates filed for is set for April 4, 2023.

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Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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