Allies of Willie Wilson questioned signatures collected by 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer’s campaign to put the three-year councilman on the upcoming mayoral race, five days after supporters of Wilson and fellow mayor Ja’Mal Green dropped challenges against each other.
A election committee hearing on the challenge, held Tuesday at the Cook County office building, was overseen by election committee hearing officer Frank Tedesso.
Wilson adviser and former Senator Rickey Hendon signed the challenge after saying he paid a team of “nearly 30” people to verify signatures given to the election committee. He claims they found many issues with the documents, including signers using PO boxes and addresses that don’t exist, like “Lake Michigan.”
Wilson has previously denied being involved in the challenges and said the effort was Hendons alone.
Sawyer’s attorney, Burt Odelson, called the allegations a “joke” and accused Hendon’s hired team without objecting to any evidence.
“That’s the flaw in the Cook County election,” Odelson said. “I’ve been doing this for 50 years and I’ve seen a lot of crap, but this is #1.”
During cross-examination, Hendon claimed that Sawyer told Hendon he had undergone back surgery during the time he was collecting signatures. Hendon’s attorney Andrew Finko – who also serves as counsel for the Wilson campaign – further claimed that this may have influenced the signatures collected by Sawyer’s campaign.
“It’s almost as good as being home sick, so I couldn’t check,” Odelson retorted – referring to Hendon’s claim that he had the flu, which had prevented him from attending the entire team and verify Sawyer’s signatures and why Hendon sprayed every document that was handed to him with a disinfectant spray.
“You’re going to be homesick because I’m going to come over there and breathe on you,” Hendon told Odelson, prompting Tedesso to step in and stop the back-and-forth.
Tedesso was forced to take a five-minute break earlier in the hearing after tensions arose. Barely two hours into the hearing, the attorneys made their closing remarks.
Finko called the alleged actions a “safety net” for Sawyer.
“[Sawyer] would never vote for signatures alone,” Finko said.
In a statement to media after the trial, Odelson said he remained confident the allegations would be dismissed.
“I expect that if [Tedesso] doing the right thing and obeying the law, the objections will be dismissed and we will proceed with the campaign,” Odelson said with Sawyer at his side.
A hearing on the decision was scheduled for January 3 at 3 p.m. in the basement of the county building, after Tedesso requested time to look at the court files.