Convicted felon on ballot for Markham mayor

MARKHAM, Ill. (WLS) -- When voters go to the polls next month in suburban Markham, they have two choices in the race for mayor - but one may be barred taking office if he wins.

Roger Agpawa is a convicted felon, and Illinois state law says convicted felons cannot hold a municipal office. Agpawa says he is eligible to run and serve as mayor despite his felony conviction.

But his opponents disagree and they want him out of the race. Kenneth Muldrow - a write-in candidate - is calling for Agpawa's name to be taken off the ballot.

"His situation has been well documented. He is a convicted felon which means he can't hold office. He can't take the oath of office," Muldrow said. "All I would like for the state's attorney to do is to do her job. The law is the law."

Agpawa doesn't deny his prior felony conviction. He says he was sentenced to three years' probation, ordered to pay thousands of dollars in restitution and perform community service.

"That was 20 years ago and I made a bad choice. I will say to that, most of us do make bad choices," Agpawa said.

Agpawa is currently the fire chief in nearby Country Club Hills. He said that even with his criminal record, he can run and run serve as mayor in Markham.

"From my legal experts, my counsel, they have indicated that I can run and I can be elected and it would be to the city council to swear me in," Agpawa said.

According to the State Board of Elections, a convicted felon is not eligible to be sworn in for a municipal office. But state law doesn't stop them from running.
So what happens if he wins?

"If the guy has a disqualifying felony and wins the election and doesn't back down, attempting to enforce it will require some use of public resources from one entity or another," said Ken Menzel, general counsel to Illinois State Board of Elections.

"If that happens, it is going to cost the citizens of Markham a lot of money," Muldrow said.

State Board of Elections officials say the first line of defense is the city council. But if they choose to swear the candidate in, then the state's attorney's office or the attorney general's office can step in and file proceedings to have the candidate removed. If they all wish not to do so, the public can also push for removal.
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