The city's Electoral Board meets Thursday, Jan. 17, to decide whether a referendum asking residents if the Wilmington Island Park District should be dissolved will appear on election ballots next April
On Nov. 26, resident and former Island Park District commissioner Bert Niehls filed a petition compelling the city to hold a referendum during the April 9 Consolidated Election asking voters if the Park District should be dissolved. He and Dave Melhorn circulated the petition, but Melhorn has now seen some value in the district and has decided to run for a seat on its Board of Commissioners.
The referendum would be binding - if a majority of voters say yes, dissolve the district, the public body would be required to follow through, according to city attorney John Urban.
Park Commissioner Tom Glenn filed an objection to the Niehls petition on Jan. 11. His objection indicates there are improper or incomplete addresses, that many signatures are illegible, many signers are not registered to vote at the address given, many signers did not use their proper names and that a number of people signed the petition more than once.
In addition, Glenn's objection states that on pages 2 through 7, 9 and 10 and page 13, "several signatures ... were written in the same hand and are not genuine and are forgeries." The document maintains several signatures were written by other individuals and family members, and that several signatures included improper addresses - in one case "an obvious forgery where an improper address was crossed out, corrected, and a second name added below it, address as corrected, in the same hand."
The written objection explains that such signatures are legally defective and deficient, and as such the petition papers lacked the required number of signatures - equal to 8 percent of the total votes cast in the municipality for candidates for governor in the preceding gubernatorial election.
The objection asks that the Electoral Board find the petition insufficient and not in compliance with state election law, and that the question asking whether to dissolve the Park District not be printed on the official Consolidated Election ballot.
The matter will be decided by the city of Wilmington Municipal Officers Electoral Board, which includes Mayor Marty Orr, City Clerk Judy Radosevich and Jonathan Mietzner, the alderman who has served the greatest number of years. Orr, as chairman, set a date for a hearing that falls not less than three nor more than five days after receipt of the objection.
The hearing will begin at 4 p.m., at Wilmington City Hall, 1165 S. Water St. Public comment will be accepted before the board deliberates.