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Town's legal memo: Stan Nord email places him at legal risk

Stan Nord
Megan McGowan
WGLT file
Normal Town Council member Stan Nord.

A legal memorandum to the Normal Town Council and mayor indicates dissident council member Stan Nord improperly used his position to try to influence the electoral process and could have placed himself in legal jeopardy. The memo came from town lawyer Brian Day with help from an outside law firm.

“If Nord disagrees with legal experts about the status of the law, he is entitled to his legal opinion. There are avenues for resolving that disagreement. Haranguing town staff is not one of them,” said the memo.

The tart memo followed a threatening email Nord sent to staff in the city clerk's office over election nominating petitions for several offices that are not elected in the town.

Mayor Chris Koos and other council members had asked for the legal opinion after Nord's actions.

Nord has characterized the missive as an attempt to be helpful to staff by letting them know potential consequences for illegal actions. The memo disputes that.

“Of particular concern is Nord’s allegations that town staff or officials are purposefully acting illegally or unethically … He exhorts the clerk staff not to compromise their ethics and to ignore their bosses. This is a common refrain from Nord: anyone who disagrees with him is unethical. This is wrong,” said the memo.

Nobody has advised any staff to behave illegally or unethically, states the memo.

The document said Nord is wrong about the section of election law that applies to the town, wrong about criminal sanctions, and wrong about his claim that all questions about elector petition questions must be resolved by the electoral board.

“The city clerk was authorized to reject petitions where the petitioner did not have the legal authority to file,” according to case law cited in the memo.

Nord also sent his email too widely — to the entire staff of the clerk’s office. The document noted only the city clerk can certify a nominating petition to the county clerk.

The opinion said the town wouldn't defend Nord in any defamation lawsuit against him.

“Nord is on notice that the town has been advised it is in compliance with the law. Allegations to the contrary may rise to the level of actual malice,” according to the memo.

It said Nord may have broken the law by using his trustee’s title and email address to send the email that makes empty threats.

“Nor would the town likely defend Nord if any action is brought based on his use of town resources to interfere with the electoral process. Again, any interference is outside the ambit of his authority,” said the memo.

It is difficult to say how much legal jeopardy Nord faces. Public officials generally have some protection from lawsuits because the law tries to insulate them from political reprisals. The mention in the memo of "malice" and "unauthorized use of town resources" by Nord to level his threats signal that protection is not absolute.

Nord responded to a request to address issues raised in the memo by questioning the fairness of WGLT coverage.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.