March 27, 2013 - Crestwood officials say a candidate seeking the Ward 2 seat on the Board of Aldermen in the Tuesday, April 2, election is ineligible to run because of a 1996 felony conviction.
The candidate, Bill Schelinski, told the Call he pleaded guilty in 1996 in Cook County, Ill., to a charge of aggravated assault of a pregnant person, a Class 3 felony. A count of aggravated assault — bodily harm — was dismissed, and he was sentenced to 30 months of probation and community service.
The Call learned of the felony conviction through an anonymous telephone call.
The City Charter states, "No person may be elected or appointed to the Board of Aldermen who is either delinquent in the payment of any Crestwood taxes or fees, or a convicted felon."
Mayor Jeff Schlink told the Call, "From what I have been told, and from what I have been told he's confirmed, based off of the City Charter, it appears to me, with my non-attorney interpretation, that he would not be eligible to serve ..."
Schelinski said he was unaware of the prohibition on convicted felons from seeking office in Crestwood.
During the filing process, he was provided a section of the city's municipal code regarding qualifications to serve as an aldermen, which states, "... No person's name shall be placed upon the ballot who, at the time of filing for candidacy for alderman, is in the arrears for any city taxes."
Had the information about the prohibition on a convicted felon been included, "I would not have signed any pieces of paper," he said, noting the language in the municipal code differs from the qualifications contained in the City Charter.
But in a conversation with the Call, City Clerk Tina Flowers outlined the information provided to potential candidates, which includes a copy of the City Charter.
While he was provided a copy of the City Charter, Schelinski said he did not read the section regarding the qualifications to serve as an alderman until last week.
When he filed to seek the Ward 2 aldermanic seat, Schelinski said he was aware his felony conviction could become an issue at any time, and he was prepared to deal with it.
"... It is an issue that is 17 years old. It was a domestic issue," he said. "It's something that I've, of course, had to live with every day. I don't condone what happened, of course. I did my community service, which, by the way, was shelving books in a library ... There really was never any trying of fact. It was hearsay evidence and the law works in funny ways."
Schelinski said, "... It was basically a plea bargain over what amounted to hearsay evidence with a woman I was living with at the time, trying to help out ..."
The woman, according to Schelinski, was a tenant in his house who had become pregnant by another man. He repeatedly asked her to move over a period of several months.
On the day he was arrested, he again asked her to move, left the house and then was contacted by police.
"... So when the officer arrested me, he said, 'Did you touch her without her consent?' And the answer was, 'Yes.' And the reason was because I had to take my keys from her to get into my car and that is the touching. That is all there is to it."
Facing the option of three years in prison, Schelinski said he had three minutes to accept the plea bargain and was led to believe the conviction could be expunged in five years.
"Well, unfortunately, the expungement part was not true and so the record was never able to get expunged. At the point I found that out, it was too late to appeal anything ...," he said.
He had anticipated he would face a misdemeanor charge and already had paid $11,000 to his attorney.
"... I was told all the way up to that last day, the most I could expect would be a misdemeanor. And so, like I said, 11 grand later, I was given my three-minute decision," he said.
Schelinski's opponent in the April 2 election, Mary Stadter, told the Call Monday, "... The issue of his felony conviction is between Mr. Schelinski and the city ... I'm still running the same campaign on the same issues as I was before, and, as always, I still think I'm the right person for the job."