Tables Turned on Crystal Lake Incumbents as Challenger Don Kountz Files Petition Objections

For several election cycles, incumbent members of the Crystal Lake City Council have found inadequacies in petitions filed by challengers and knocked them off the ballot allowing themselves a free ride to re-election. (See 2014 article and 2018 article.)

Donald Kountz all dressed up at a wedding.

Now City Council challenger Donald Kountz has reversed the process.

Kuontz, the unsuccessful 2021 candidate for mayor against Haig Haleblian, appointed in 2020 after long-time (since 1999) Mayor Aaron Shepley at age 56 died of cardiac arrhythmia and ischemic heart disease field obejction to Haleblian’s petitions.

Here are three things a candidate must file to be on the ballot. 

  • Statement of Candidacy
  • Receipt for filing an Statement of Economic Interest and
  • the proper number of signatures. 

Haig did not include the first and included his statement of Economic Interest, but not the receipt.

Brett Hopkins, a close ally of Shepley and fellow member of the Crystal Lake Strikers is the person who successfully challenged his opponents the last two election cycles.

This time around, Kountz, a methodical retired engineers who savaged the recent Tax Increment Financing District for the area behind the old Colonial Cafe, filed an objection to Hopkins’ petitions,

Kountz claims Hopkins’ Statement of Candidacy and signature petitions both have “an ambiguous office.” 

Hopkins says he is running for “City Council. ” I

n Crystal Lake, the City Council consists of the Mayor and six Council Members, and in this election the Mayor and three Council Members will be elected by the voters.

Incumbent Ellen Brady (used to be Brady Mueller)’s petition has also been challenged by Kountz. He contends Brady’s Statement of Candidacy has an incorrect date of election.  She wrote February 28, 2023, while the General Election is April 4, 2023.

Additionally, Kountz filed a Motion asking the current and alternate members of the Electoral Board be disqualified since the Mayor, City Clerk, City Attorney and all City Council Members, except Council Member Ferguson, signed all the challenged candidates petitions.


Tables Turned on Crystal Lake Incumbents as Challenger Don Kountz Files Petition Objections — 31 Comments

  1. Haig is history.

    The others may be in trouble too, especially Ellen.

    Its time for write ins.

  2. These challenges sound frivolous and will likely be dismissed by the city’s electoral board, which does not need to be reconfigured.

    Kountz better be ready to take this to court.

    Council Member Brady complaint will be tossed, since the city of Crystal Lake operates under the nonpartisan municipal election statute, and why petitions are turned in during November, opposed to December for most villages in McHenry County.

    They file early, not knowing if a consolidated primary will be needed on February 28, so Brady will be on the April 4 ballot.

    “City Council Member” opposed to “City Council” is not a fatal flaw, and Hopkins will be on the ballot, too. Using the letter of the law to get around the intent of the law rarely works.

    If Kountz wants to waste his money in court, he’s welcome to and that’s his First Amendment right.

    He will not succeed bumping anyone from the ballot.

  3. The challenges are no more frivolous than when the “gang of three” challenged back in 2019.

    It’s how they have ALWAYS done things.

    This time the tables got turned on THEM.

    They are all hypocrites!

    Interesting how Haleblian stated it was his and other council members’ policy to not challenge new candidates’ petitions.

    That’s an interesting spin on things.

    They have ALL been ok with it in the past!

    Haleblian does have fatal flaws in his paperwork.

    The statement and receipt are 66% of what is required!

    If he gets a pass to remain on the ballot, we will know corrupt the Electoral Board is.

    The Electoral Board absolutely needs to be changed for these challenges.

    They current members are all a tight group and don’t want outsiders joining them.

    They will do whatever is necessary to keep it that way.

    It needs to be impartial, and it isn’t now.

    Love how the NW Herald buried this story on page 11 – it should have been on the front page.

  4. Dianne, first I did not defend the mayor’s petitions, and he admitted in the Northwest Herald article he’ll have to run as a write-in on Apri 4, as will anyone else who wants to be mayor.

    I’m sure the mayor will not fight his objection, given his admission to the newspaper.

    The objection against Brady is frivolous and so is objection against Hopkins for reasons cited above.

  5. John Gomez, when the Municipal Officers Election Board disqualified Sascha Chadwick from the ballot Aaron Shepley filed the objection to his paperwork, arguing they were not consecutively numbered and neatly bound as required by Illinois election law.

    ‘My opponent’s inability to comprehend or follow very simple but important rules or seek legal guidance before filing his petitions confirms without a doubt that he is not qualified to serve as Mayor.’

    Therefore Haig Haleblian is not competent or able to follow very simple rules and not qualified to serve as Mayor according to Shepley himself.

  6. I truly don’t understand how anyone, but especially an incumbent like Haleblian, can not follow the basic rules of filing petitions.

  7. Current write in rules make it easier for write in candidates because they have to file an intent to run as a write in and there is a posting with their name on it in each precinct polling place.

    Haig’s name might be difficult for people to spell, however, with these rules, anything that evinces the voters intent is sufficient so misspellings can be allowed.

    Given that there is no other name on the ballot either, he may be OK but it is embarrassing nevertheless.

  8. ‘Based on 16 years of service, I know that the Mayor is expected to learn and know the rules better than anyone on the Council because he or she presides over meetings.’ Shepley said. ‘If he failed to follow simple instructions in applying for a job, no employer would even give him an interview.’

    Haleblian was appointed to the Council by Shepley and already run for Mayor yet he, Brady and Hopkins who’ve been on the Council it appears since the Vietnam War can’t even follow simple instructions and correctly file their own paperwork.

    Shepley obviously surrounded himself with idiots in order to keep control of the City. Haleblian sounds as competent as Goober Pyle and has the same stupid look on his face.

    Even Shepley wouldn’t give these three stooges a job interview based on his own words.

  9. I don’t read the northworst rag and am out of the loop.

    What did he do wrong?

    I agree with what’s their face comment about feeling no sympathy for the CL clowns after the bs.

    What do you mean no name on the ballot? Haig was the only one running?

    So there’s just gonna be a write in line?

    Skinner you aren’t too good at explaining situations nor are your readers.

    You assume people know more than they do.

    That’s the same problem Rich Miller has, except he is also an asshole in addition to being too presumptive about what people know.

    I always say explain it like you’re explaining it to someone who doesn’t know what’s going on.

    Take it down a level folks.

    What of the people who don’t live in CL? I would never live in CL.

    Now what the HECK is wrong with his signatures or his paperwork??????

    If that little goblin gets kicked off the ballot and told the newspaper he’s going to get kicked off the ballot (where’s the article, Lopez? where’s the link?), that’s kind of funny.

    I don’t like CL therefore I do not like Haig and assume he is responsible for the way that city is.

    CL sucks.

    McHenry number 1

  10. I truly don’t understand how anyone, but especially an incumbent like Haleblian, can not follow the basic rules of filing petitions.

    six years ago. Bob Miller of ALG TWP HWY infamy was challenged for turning in flawed petitions.

    As I witnessed at a hearing at the TWP Office, Millers peers gave him a pass, so apparently the rules are too difficult to follow or those running as incumbents cant be bothered with details.

    Besides, if your co-workers hear the complaint and then can vote to allow you in, what’s the big deal?

  11. Correcting, I stand by my 1st comment for this article both City Council Members Brady and Hopkins are safe. Electoral Board won’t toss them over those very insignificant points.

    The mayoral election will be all write-in, and given how McHenry County Republican Chairman Jeff Thorsen was embarrassed failing to win reelection to the county board last month, could a write-in campaign for mayor be his comeback?

    Maybe this will give Catalina Lauf an added incentive to get involved locally in politics, remembering how Mayor Haleblian openly endorsed Congressman Bill Foster right before the election last month.

    Helping Jeff Thorsen with a successful mayoral write-in campaign will help Lauf in the long term, if the opportunity presents itself.

  12. Didn’t a Robert S. Miller run for City Council in 2018 and he was rejected from the ballot by Hopkins, Ferguson and Brady for getting a date wrong as well as stating ‘City Council’? Hopkins and Brady were on the committee that ultimately had Miller rejected.

    Hopkins, Brady and Ferguson were all given legal representation regarding their paperwork errors pro bono by Mayor Shepley’s wifes law firm she’s employed with.

    Clearly the pot calling the kettle black and shows the hypocrisy by these Shepley lackeys who are incompetent needing to keep outsiders out of CL City Hall.

    Makes inquiring minds curious what Shepley was up to for nearly two decades and still needs to be hidden?

  13. Hi John,

    May you please explain why you think that Crystal Lake’s electoral board would not need to be reconfigured?


  14. The Electoral Board and the Courts determined it was OK for Lakewood candidates to remove their packets from the clerks possession, correct them and re-file in a direct afront to State law.

    Perhaps the candidates should simply retrieve their packets and correct them now that there is case law?

  15. Is there any credible talk of Thorsen doing that or are you just thinking out loud, John?

    I’d be fine with Thorsen running against Haig.

    Someone’s gotta do it!

    Don’t leave important races like that uncontested.

    Plus he was on the city council a long time ago iirc.

    So what is wrong with Haig’s petition and what is ambiguous about the fellows who wrote “city council?”

    Seems pretty clear to me…

  16. Slapdyck – you are correct about Robert S. Miller and it was in 2018/2019.

    Thanks for remembering all of that!

    The “gang of three” as we called them, went after his paperwork because he couldn’t get a required receipt on time because the McHenry County offices were closed due to a blizzard.

    Many have said Bob should have gotten the receipt earlier, but he started his campaign really late in the game.

    He and many other helpers spent lots of hours knocking on doors during freezing cold and snowstorms to gather enough signatures in time.

    The only day left to get the receipt was the day of the blizzard and the offices were closed.

    There were hearing and court dates and you are correct – the gang got legal advice from the law firm Shepley’s wife worked for.

    Bob was pro-se because we certainly don’t have the resources they do, and his campaign started so late that he hadn’t raised a lot of $.

    Here is a post from the McHenry County Blog after Bob was removed from the ballot:

    After the final hearing at City Hall, I stood up and gave an impassioned speech and called them all hypocrites (because their paperwork had deficiencies as well).

    Shepley scolded me because they don’t allow “name calling” in meetings.

    I didn’t care – I was only speaking the truth.

    It’s a shame that new faces and ideas aren’t welcomed by government in Crystal Lake.

    Bob has found that he can be extremely effective in getting issues fixed being on the outside.

    Donald Kountz is rightfully giving them all a taste of their own medicine.

    The sweet land of vindication for all of those they have screwed in the past.

    I would LOVE to see Jeff Thorsen run for Mayor.

    He is a neighbor of ours and a genuinely nice guy.

  17. Dianne, It seems that if someone not a part of the Shepley Regime is running for CL City Council their paperwork is scrutinized by those they are in direct competition with then that same group decides if their name will be placed on the ballot.

    In this instance those same group members are being challenged regarding the same types of errors in which Aaron Shepley’s eye’s were bulging out of his head but those like John Lopez think it’s no big deal.

    Wasn’t Thorsen on Shepley’s Council prior to his running for County Board?

    The CL City Council needs to be de-Shepley’d and his influence a memory.

    Shepley stated himself that those who can’t follow simple rules can’t be trusted to run a City meeting and clearly this would apply to Haleblian, Hopkins and Brady.

    Having crossed paths with Shepley over the years I can see why he wanted these types around as they were all ‘Yes Men/Women’ who did what he told them giving him Stalin like control.

    Have your Husband run for Mayor or Council would be Justice well served!

  18. Is there any talk of Carolyn Schofield running for anything? Or how about that Indian guy who ran for MCC board of trustees? (Do you ever see those peeps, Cal?

    How are they doing?)

    I’m just making things up now, Cal, seeing if anything sticks, you know?

    If Lopez can play make believe, so can I!

  19. This just goes to show that you have to know the requirements of the filing of petitions before you run for any office.

    It’s worth the small fee, if any, that a lawyer might charge to have someone look over everything before you file it.

    I am sure in the case of an incumbent mayor and council members running for reelection that any number of local lawyers would do that for free if nothing else than to curry some favor with the local government officials.

  20. BecauseScience, This is what Shepley did as his Modus Operandi. He was someone who used his positions to influence things for his professional/personal favor.

    Influence peddling and as you stated ‘curry some favor’ was Shepley’s standard operating procedure.

    There are many people in the local legal profession that owed Shepley for tossing them a bone and he collected back!

    Shepley was bringing in individuals on the CL Council who were young, naive and with little experience because he could control & manipulate them with little effort as he was able to ‘curry some favor’ with them.

    He was able to do the same at the County level as well with those who owed him.

    Personally, I found Aaron Shepley to be egotistical, manipulative and a vindictive sociopath who was out for himself.

    Shepley would throw you under the bus without a second thought and based on his own actions and words in similar circumstances Haleblian, Brady and Hopkins aren’t able to comprehend or follow very simple instructions how can they do the hard work associated with being Mayor or on City Council.

    ‘This is my sixth election process, and I have followed the rules each and every time. There is nothing unfair about expecting…the same.’ Aaron T. Shepley

    Hopkins and Brady have been on the Council for many elections as well and Haleblian already filed a previous set of paperwork to replace Shepley.

    Obviously they don’t meet Shepley’s own standard and are incompetent and mistake prone on completing simple tasks. Shepley surrounded himself with these types for a reason.

    Makes one wonder what else they’ve screwed up behind closed doors.

  21. There’s a big difference between Jeff Thorsen and Carolyn Schofield, and why I don’t put it out of reach for Thorsen to be considered to run for Crystal Lake mayor as a write-in.

    Thorsen is chairman of the McHenry County Republican Party, and lost his county board seat last month by finishing third behind Democrat Gloria Van Hof, who flipped his seat to Democrat, and his running mate John Reinert. To my knowledge, Thorsen is still chair of McHenry County Republican Party. He did serve on the Crystal Lake city council.

    Carolyn Schofield, also a former Crystal Lake city council member, left the County Board for a 2nd time, pursuing higher office earlier this year, running for lieutenant governor. She’s also a cancer survivor, and currently she’s still a precinct committeeperson in Grafton Township. Not surprised Schofield’s name being floated to run for mayor of Crystal Lake, and who knows, she may run for a local office with petition filing about to take place next week.

    At some point early next year, Schofield’s name may be floated as a possible candidate for IL-11 to challenge Congressman Bill Foster or to simply be the anti-Catalina Lauf candidate in 2024 Republican primary, but at this point, given Thorsen is the higher profile individual, why I didn’t mention Schofield as a possible mayoral write-in candidate. Remember, after losing the 2016 primary for state representative, she ran again for county board in 2018 and won election and returned to the County Board.

    We’ll see what happens, but if Mayor Haleblian is unopposed as a write-in, it will be an opportunity missed, and that will be the fault of Thorsen since he’s County Republican Party chair, in spite of Crystal Lake city council positions elected in nonpartisan elections.

  22. Student, yesterday, you asked in comment:

    “Hi John, May you please explain why you think that Crystal Lake’s electoral board would not need to be reconfigured?

    Using guided discovery, let’s all remember a municipal electoral board is 3-members chaired by the mayor, and consists of the clerk and the senior city council member.

    Given my previous comments, plus Mayor Haleblian’s statement admitting he’ll have to run as a write-in, the electoral board will not be hearing the mayor’s objection, but only the two council members, Brady and Hopkins.

    The mayor has no conflict-of-interest, in spite of his having allegedly signed both Brady’s and Hopkins’ petitions. By statute, he does not need to recuse himself, since the objection is not targeting him.

    Same goes for the city clerk.

    Signing a petition is a 1st Amendment right, and would not be deemed a conflict-of-interest.

    I do not know which city council member has the most seniority (consecutive years as a member of the City Council) and that information is not on the city’s website. If either Hopkins or Brady are the most senior, they will NOT be allowed to sit on the electoral board for their own hearing. If the senior member is not one of them, then any 1 of the other council members can sit on the electoral board for the objections. It’s quite common for municipal electoral boards to switch out the council member or village trustee, on advice of the municipal attorney.

    Of of the 3 members, the city council member spot is most likely to need to be replaced, if Brady or Hopkins are the senior council member based on consecutive years of service.

    Per my previous comments, IMHO, the complaints against Brady and Hopkins are frivolous and my reasons are given above.

    Finally, as pointed out previously, the city attorney will be advising the electoral board, and if the attorney believes any one of the three members needs to recuse themself, they will voluntarily do so. If the city clerk has to recuse themself, then a deputy clerk will take their place.

    Hope this helps.

  23. In order to make the electoral board hearing fair, they ALL need to recuse themselves and be replaced with persons who are NOT employed by or do business for the City of Crystal Lake.

    They are all a tight group, council members and city employees and watch out for one another.

    It shouldn’t take the city attorney telling members they need to recuse – they just need to do it.

    The objections against Brady and Hopkins are well deserved.

    Exactly what THEY have been doing to others for years!

  24. Well told Dianne!

    Notice how Lopez backs the incumbent Council members as their errors and omission’s are no big deal yet Aaron Shepley himself made a big deal about it as well as stating if someone can’t follow ‘simple rules’ they shouldn’t be eligible for City Office.

    Would anyone go into a Court if the individual(s) you were litigating against were serving as Judge, Jury and Prosecutor?

    Why is this alright in this instance?

    Quite the bunch of self serving hypocrites and tells me Aaron Shipley was up to no good and others involved.

  25. Wouldn’t Carolyn theoretically be a stronger candidate than Jeff then?

    Carolyn did not lose her county board race like Jeff.

    Jeff is chairman of MCRCC in a city that seems Democrat. Isn’t that a liability?

    Carolyn, although a Republican, was always considered a moderate.

    And Carolyn is of “the fair sex” (she is a woman).

    Carolyn is a mommy and wife and engineer.

    Considering her age and health issues, she’s alright looking.

    My thought is if people want to challenge Haig, the important thing is to not crowd the field with multiple Republicans.

    The same would apply for people challenging Haig to his left if they want to win.

    tbh I don’t think Carolyn will do it.

    She may want to spend time with her family and she’s already been in politics for a long time.

    No idea what is going on in Jeff’s mind but he’s easy to get a hold of if you’re curious.

    And as to CD 11, a lot of Crystal Lake is in CD 9 so it’s not clear being mayor would help much.

    If there’s any CD Republicans should focus on in Illinois it’s 17 which was actually close.

    14 was also more competitive than 11.

  26. IL-14 was more competitive then IL-11 because the Republican nominee Scott Gryder was much stronger than IL-11′ Catalina Lauf.

    Plus, Congressman Bill Foster had much more money, and greater tenure to defend the new IL-11 then Congresswoman Lauren Underwood.

    We’ll see what Carolyn Schofield wants to do.

    If she wants to run for County Board again and not challenge a Republican, she’d have to wait until 2026.

    Schofield is in District 3, and Republican Eric Hendricks will be up for election in 2024.

  27. Jeff was the lone No voice many times in opposition to Aaron The Mayor and the Shepley Sheeples.

    I think he may have lost his Board race primarily because Lakewood became a larger percentage of the new district and there is no love lost between Lakewood and the CL City Council.

    That said, running a write in campaign against an incumbent who is also running a write in campaign is going to take a lot of work and money and Jeff is not known for being a hard campaigner.

    The better idea would be to run someone with a similar name, like Henry Harrison, as many voters won’t be able to spell Haig’s name and it will create a mess trying to determine the voter’s intent.

  28. I fully support Haig, Brett and Ellen.

    This is frivolous.

    IT sounds like a guy who just wants to get back at people because he lost.

    They won’t let him play so he found a way to get them back.

    These people are basically volunteering to be boards members.

    The city is in good shape.

    If you don’t like it, move.

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