5/13/2014 6:40:00 PM Lawsuit over 2013 election dismissed Ruling: City "acted appropriately" in replacing late mayor
Marney Simon Staff writer
A lawsuit filed against the city of Braidwood alleging that the city's last election was incomplete has been dismissed.
On April 30, Will County Circuit Judge Theodore Juarz ruled against former city administrator Andy Galatte, who filed the suit on December of 2012.
Galatte had argued that the municipal election held on April 9, 2013 was missing an office on the ballot. But the judge disagreed.
The lawsuit stemmed from a special election held to find a permanent replacement for the late mayor Jerry Pressley. Pressley died suddenly one month into his term in 2011. Per state statutes, a special election was held at the next available election, which was April of last year.
At that time, Bill Rulien, who had been acting mayor since Pressley's passing, was officially elected as mayor. Rulien was elevated to the mayor's seat automatically upon Pressley's death. But Galatte argued that Rulien's original seat, Finance Commissioner, should have also been on that ballot. The former administrator claimed that Rulien's seat as finance commissioner was made vacant when Rulien stepped up to serve as acting mayor. But the court disagreed.
According to the ruling, the city was found to have followed the state municipal code on replacing a mayor who has passed away.
"The commissioners of the City of Braidwood acted appropriately in recognizing the passage of mayoral duties to the Commissioner of Accounts and Finances and appointing William Rulien to fill the remainder of the unexpired term of Mayor Pressley," the ruling stated.
The ruling continued that "the election of an acting mayor does not create a vacancy in the original office of the person on the City Council unless that person resigns from the original office."
Rulien did not resign as Finance Commissioner until after he was elected to the mayor's seat in 2013. In the interim, Elena Hibler was appointed to fulfil the duties of Finance Commissioner while Rulien was acting mayor. The ruling states that Rulien would have had the right to resume the balance of his original post had he lost the 2013 election, hence, no vacancy was assumed or implied in the finance commissioner seat, and the seat didn't need to be on the ballot in 2013.
"I have tried my best to become the Mayor that the voters had hoped that Jerry would be," Rulien said in a released statement from City Hall. "Obviously I am very pleased that the court has sided 100 percent with the procedures we followed."
Rulien noted that his decision not to resign as Finance Commissioner was made with on the advice of city attorney Scott Pyles.
Galatte was the city administrator under mayors Wayne Saltzman and Sue Grygiel, but was let go by Grygiel in 2010. Galatte then made an unsuccessful bid for Finance Commissioner in the 2011 election.
This was Galatte's second lawsuit against the city. In 2010, Galatte was arrested by Braidwood police for obstructing an officer during the arrest of a third party. Galatte opted to go to trial on that charge, and was found not guilty of the obstruction charge. He subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against the city and the arresting officer for civil rights violations, as well as in regard to an injury sustained to his hand during the arrest.
According to federal court records, Galatte is seeking a judgment of $500,000. That lawsuit is still ongoing.