Mum’s the word regarding candidate’s qualifications

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

Crestwood Ward 4 aldermanic candidate Ismaine Ayouaz says he qualifies for the April 5 ballot.

Not everyone agrees, though, including one of his Ward 4 opponents, Steve Nieder, and former Alderman Jerry Miguel, who is seeking election in Ward 3 on April 5.

In October, Ayouaz announced his intention to run as a write-in candidate, issuing a press release that stated he wasn’t qualified to be placed on the ballot because he would not be a registered voter for one year before the filing deadline, as required by the city Charter and code.

But on the last day of filing, Jan. 19, Ayouaz filed for office on the advice of his attorney, and city officials placed his name on the April 5 ballot.

We’d sure like to know on what legal grounds Ayouaz filed for office, but he has repeatedly declined to identify his attorney.

The facts are incontrovertible — Ayouaz became a registered voter on Feb. 6, 2015, and the Charter and code require candidates to be a registered voter for one year before the filing deadline. Mathematically, Ayouaz does not meet that requirement.

City officials were well aware of that when they accepted his candidacy, as evidenced by voluminous correspondence between them and Ayouaz, not to mention his press release and his testimony before the city’s Charter Review Commission that he was not qualified.

But rather than address the issue, City Attorney Lisa Stump read a statement Feb. 23 that essentially self-imposed a gag order on city officials regarding questions or comments about Ayouaz’s qualifications.

In part, the statement said, “… Based on Missouri law and controlling legal precedent, the city has determined that once Mr. Ayouaz filed his written, signed and sworn declaration certifying under oath that he met all the qualifications to serve as an alderman, the City Clerk (Helen Ingold) was legally obligated to certify Mr. Ayouaz’s name to the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners …”

Last week, when Miguel asked Stump, an attorney with Lashly & Baer, to identify the state law and legal precedent, she said, “We’re not going to address that anymore.”

We can only hope that Ayouaz’s attorney is well-versed in the law, as Miguel also said, “I would suggest that Mr. Ayouaz review one section of the Missouri Statutes, and that’s Section 115.631. It deals with offenses for knowingly furnishing false information to an election authority …”