Battle to fill water district vacancy goes to court

SHARE Battle to fill water district vacancy goes to court
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Left-Right: David J. Walsh. mwrd.org photo; Cam Davis. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times.

The battle for an obscure seat on the water treatment board will go to court, either allowing Gov. Bruce Rauner to keep his nominee on board or allowing voters to choose the next commissioner come November.

When Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Tim Bradford died on Dec. 1, 2017 –– three days before the Dec. 4 primary candidate-filing deadline –– Cook County Clerk David Orr and the State’s Attorney’s Office opted for a write-in election.

Because the candidates could not file petitions in time to have their name on the ballot, Democrat Cameron Davis and Green Party contender Geoffrey Cubbage earned their nominations by campaigning for enough write-in votes. Republicans did not have a candidate in the mix, but three days after the primary, Rauner appointed David Walsh to fill the vacancy.

A statute that governs the MWRD, a regional board that manages storm and sewage water, gives the governor the authority to fill a vacancy on the board until the next regular election — which is November.

“Our understanding is that due to the timing of the vacancy, under the statute Gov. Rauner has the responsibility to appoint a new member to serve until 2020,” Rauner spokesperson Rachel Bond told the Sun-Times in March.

This would be the third time Rauner has taped Walsh to fill a vacancy on the board. He was originally appointed in 2015.

“The Cook County Clerk’s Office believes November’s general election will determine who fills the Tim Bradford Water Reclamation vacancy,” Nick Shields, Cook County Clerk spokesman said in March.

With 43 days until the general election, the District wants a judge to determine how the vacancy will be filled.

“The District is faced with an unprecedented situation due to the passing of Commissioner Timothy Bradford,” spokeswoman Allison Fore said in a statement. “We are requesting a declaratory judgment to settle this matter.”

In the motion, MWRD lays out what’s at stake if a decision is delayed. The District needs to prepare for whichever incoming commissioner will fill the vacancy, including counting their vote for the upcoming meeting that will set the agenda for its over one billion dollar budget.

“The MWRD will not be able to take the necessary steps or properly credit votes if two individuals both claim right and attempt to occupy the same position,” the motion reads.

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