MARKHAM, IL. (WGN) — State law prohibits convicted felons from holding municipal office. But voters in suburban Markham still picked an ex-con to serve as mayor.
Roger Agapawa is the apparent winner of the April 4 mayoral election in the South suburb. But Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has sued to block him from taking office.
A complaint filed in the Cook County Circuit Court states that because of Agapawa’s 1999 conviction for felony mail fraud, he is ineligible to hold office.
Agapawa’s conviction became a hot campaign issue. Bishop Larry Trotter and other spoke out saying they backed Foxx’s threat to block Agapawa from taking the oath of office.
But Markham voters did not agree. Unofficial totals show Agpawa was elected in a landslide.
Agpawa is well known in the south suburbs. He is the fire chief of Country Club Hills and before that served as Markham deputy chief.
“I’ve taken the last 20 years to step forward and do right and to be an example maybe to many others,” Agpawa said. “And to say this is what happens if you do right and folks have faith in you, they have confidence in you, they trust you.”
The Illinois Election Code prohibits any person convicted of any “infamous crime” from holding office. But Agapawa’s attorney Burt Odelson thinks the state’s constitution provides an opening.
“We’re going to attack the lawsuit based on the constitution of the state of Illinois which allows constitutional officers to hold office after they’ve been convinced and served their time as a felon,” Odelson said. “For instance, the governor, state senators, state representative, congressmen can all hold office after they’ve served their time.”
Odelson says he’ll argue there is no difference between a mayor-elect and a congressman.
The election results won’t be certified until an official canvas later this month. After that, Agapawa expects to take office on May 3rd.
Election results are certified on April 25, a court hearing is scheduled the day before.