Battle over Sawyer’s campaign signatures from Wilson ally Hendon gets testy during hearing

Willie Wilson adviser and former state Sen. Rickey Hendon alleged that 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer didn’t have enough valid signatures to remain on the upcoming mayoral ballot.

SHARE Battle over Sawyer’s campaign signatures from Wilson ally Hendon gets testy during hearing
Former state Sen. Rickey Hendon sprays down documents during a Chicago Board of Elections hearing Dec. 27, 2022. Hendon said he’d been sick with the flu for several weeks.

Former state Sen. Rickey Hendon sprays down documents during a Chicago Board of Elections hearing Dec. 27, 2022. Hendon said he’d been sick with the flu for several weeks.

Zack Miller/Sun-Times

Allies of Willie Wilson challenged ballot petition signatures collected by 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer’s campaign five days after supporters of Wilson and fellow mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green dropped challenges against each other.

A Board of Elections hearing on the challenge — held Tuesday in the Cook County Office Building — was overseen by Election Board hearing officer Frank Tedesso.

Wilson adviser and former state Sen. Rickey Hendon signed off on the challenge after he said he paid a team of “nearly 30” people to review the signatures given to the election board. He claims they found many issues with the documents, including signees using P.O. boxes and addresses that don’t exist, such as “Lake Michigan.”

Wilson has previously denied involvement in the challenges, saying the efforts are Hendon’s alone.

Sawyer’s lawyer, Burt Odelson, decried the allegations as a “joke,” accusing Hendon’s hired team of objecting without any evidence.

“This is what’s wrong with elections in Cook County,” Odelson said. “I’ve been doing this for 50 years and have seen a lot of crap, but this is No. 1.”

6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer and his lawyer, Burt Odelson, confer during a recess at a Chicago Board of Elections hearing Dec. 27, 2022.

6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer and his lawyer, Burt Odelson, confer during a recess at a Chicago Board of Elections hearing Dec. 27, 2022.

Zack Miller/Sun-Times

During cross-examination, Hendon alleged that Sawyer had told Hendon he had back surgery during the time he was collecting signatures. Hendon’s lawyer, Andrew Finko — who also serves as a lawyer for the Wilson campaign — further alleged that this could have impacted the signatures Sawyer’s campaign collected.

“It’s almost as good as I’m home sick so I couldn’t check,” Odelson fired back — referencing Hendon’s claim that he was sick with the flu, which had prevented him from overseeing the entirety of the team checking Sawyer’s signatures and why Hendon was showering every document handed to him with a sanitizing spray.

“You’re going to be home sick cause I’ll come over there and breathe on you,” Hendon said to Odelson, prompting Tedesso to step in and end the back and forth.

Tedesso had to call a five-minute recess earlier in the hearing after tensions arose. Nearly two hours after the hearing started, the lawyers made their closing remarks.

Finko called the alleged actions a “safety net” for Sawyer.

“[Sawyer] would never make the ballot on signatures alone,” Finko said.

Lawyer Burt Odelson addresses the media alongside his client 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer after a Chicago Board of Elections hearing Dec. 27, 2022.

Lawyer Burt Odelson addresses the media alongside his client, 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer, after a Chicago Board of Elections hearing Dec. 27, 2022.

Zack Miller/Sun-Times

In a statement to media after the hearing, Odelson said he remained confident the allegations would be dismissed.

“I’m expecting that if [Tedesso] does the right thing and follows the law, that the objections will be dismissed and we will go on with the campaign,” Odelson said with Sawyer by his side.

A decision hearing was scheduled for Jan. 3 at 3 p.m. in the basement of the county building after Tedesso requested time to review the court record.

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