A referendum asking Naperville voters if they want to continue electing city councilmen at large can stay on the April ballot, the city's electoral board ruled Tuesday.
"To me I think it should be a clear decision it should go forth, be on the ballot," Councilman Doug Krause said. "Let the citizens of Naperville make the final determination."
However, the objector said he plans to appeal that decision to a DuPage County judge.
In 2015, Naperville is scheduled to switch its City Council to a hybrid system that includes a mix of district and at-large representation following the results of a 2010 ballot question organized by the Naperville Voter Education League. Roughly 66 percent of voters in that election approved the switch.
But a group of residents then formed Yes at Large, which asserts voters did not have enough information about the pros and cons and that districts will be detrimental.
In late November, the group filed a referendum petition with 2,320 signatures, exceeding the 1,680 needed. However, resident Paul Sjordal filed an objection on Jan. 14 stating less than 900 of the signatures are valid and the referendum question is confusing. Midway through the hearing process this month, he withdrew his objections to the signatures.
Attorneys for both sides made arguments Tuesday related to the validity of the proposed referendum question, "Shall the city of Naperville elect city council at large instead of part of the councilmen at large and part of the councilmen from districts?"
Doug Ibendahl, attorney for Sjordal, argued the question has three "fatal deficiencies." He said the petition paperwork attempts to get both a binding and non-binding referendum on the ballot, it does not comply with the election code and it does not "describe for the voters all the changes required if passed."
"This referendum leaves unanswered questions, creates new ones, creates confusion," Ibendahl said.
Kevin McQuillan, attorney for Yes at Large Co-chair Rebecca Boyd-Obarski, argued the paperwork made it clear only one question would be presented and said the question uses some of the same wording as the 2010 referendum question.
"It is a mirror image of the last referendum and it follows the statute as to the lead-in so the voters understand exactly what they're being asked to do here," McQuillan said.
The electoral board consisting of Krause, Mayor George Pradel and City Clerk Pam LaFeber unanimously voted to keep the referendum on the April 9 ballot.
"I don't believe the question is confusing," LaFeber said.
Krause said he feels the referendum question is "self-explanatory" and complies with state statutes. He also said the city's form of government has changed during its history according to the will of residents.
The board also ruled there was no conflict of interest on its own part or that of City Attorney Margo Ely as Ibendahl had alleged.
McQuillan had requested Boyd-Obarski be reimbursed legal fees because Ibendahl withdrew objections to petition signatures after her attorney had worked to defend them.
The board decided it did not have the power to do so, but did vote to publicly reprimand Ibendahl for what Krause called "disruptive, dismissive and disrespectful" conduct in addition to Ibendahl's late withdrawal of objections.
Ibendahl called the accusations "defamatory" and "outrageous."
He said he plans to appeal the board's ruling on the referendum. To do so, he must file paperwork with the DuPage County Circuit Clerk within five days.