By MATT HOPFHerald-Whig Staff Writer
Ronnie McKenzie, a Republican candidate for alderman in the 1st Ward, withdrew from the race Tuesday, one day after 1st Ward Alderman Virgil Goehl, the Democratic incumbent, challenged that he was not eligible to run.
In a letter received Monday at the City Clerk's office, Goehl claimed that McKenzie is a convicted felon. Documents attached to Goehl's letter from Wisconsin Circuit Court Access show that McKenzie pleaded guilty in Milwaukee County in 2008 to two counts of failure to support child -- a Class I felony, the least severe of nine felony classifications in Wisconsin.
Illinois state law does not allow convicted felons to serve in an elective municipal office.
McKenzie said the case has been expunged from his record.
"I was 120 days late on a child support case, and my son in question ... two months after this case, I had custody of (him)," he said. "I have custody of all six of my kids, and I take care of all of them."
Goehl also maintained that McKenzie is not eligible to run because he has not been a resident of the 1st Ward "for the requisite amount of time to run as a candidate." Goehl provided a change of address form for voters in Adams County dated Aug. 31 showing McKenzie had listed 1213 N. Eighth as a new address. However, McKenzie's previous address was listed as 1227 N. Seventh, which also is in the 1st Ward.
City Clerk Jenny Hayden said that the Illinois State Board of Elections told her that a candidate must live in the same residence in the ward for which they are seeking office for one year prior to filing for the election. However, Ken Menzel, deputy general counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections challenged Hayden's understanding of the residency rule.
"Residency needn't be in a single home," Menzel said.
Hayden said it is the first time in her 23 years in the city clerk's office that she can recall someone challenging a candidacy.
Goehl requested that the city's electoral board convene to remove McKenzie from the ballot. He said he had nothing against McKenzie but wanted to make sure everything was "on the up and up."
"I just wanted to make sure everything was being followed properly and in a proper way," he said.
McKenzie claims Goehl's petitions do not have enough valid signatures, though he has not filed a challenge against them. He asked last week for employees with the Adams County Clerk's office to help him go through voter rolls, which would include voter registration cards. County Clerk Georgia Volm said she doesn't allow her employees to do that.
She said McKenzie could have requested a report that included signatures of registered voters. The first 50 pages of that report would be free, and each additional page would cost 15 cents. However, Volm said he never asked for it.
"I will not let anyone into our voter file, because driver's license numbers, Social Security numbers and birth dates are in there," she said. "That is extremely inappropriate."
McKenzie's change of address form for voters in Adams County -- which Goehl provided with his challenge -- contained his driver's license number. Volm said the driver's license number should have been redacted.
"Someone did come in and, based on the Freedom of Information Act, got that," she said.
As of press time, the Adams County Clerk's office had not said who filled out the FOIA paperwork.
McKenzie also has pulled petitions to run for a seat on the Quincy School Board. He maintained that he would continue to seek the office.
"The School Board is a little more personal to me, because I have five kids in the Quincy school system," he said. "It's important to me that the school system is run effectively, and the people in charge do what's for the best instances of the children."