CHICAGO (CBS) — Two weeks after he appeared to win re-election, an Illinois Appellate Court panel has ruled Markham Mayor Roger Agpawa is not eligible to hold public office in Illinois, due to a 1999 federal mail fraud conviction.
The mayor sat down exclusively with CBS 2’s Jermont Terry to explain if he will stay or walk away.READ MORE: State Police Investigate Shooting On Kennedy Expressway Feeder Ramp
“Regardless, through this cloud today, we will get through it,” Agpawa said.
He remains confident he will stay mayor, yet the Illinois Appellate Court handed down a 2-1 decision ruling against his eligibility to hold office.
The ruling reverses earlier decisions by a lower court and a local election board.
“Roger Agpawa, having been convicted of the infamous crime of mail fraud in 1999, was not a duly qualified candidate for any statutorily created municipal office in Illinois, including the office of Mayor of the City of Markham, and is, therefore, ineligible to hold or to take the oath of office as Mayor of the City of Markham,” the appeals court ruling states.
Agpawa is a convicted felon and served time for federal mail fraud. He ran and won office in 2017 but spent half his time fighting to get sworn in. Then Gov. Bruce Rauner stepped in and restored his citizen’s rights.
However, the appeals court ruled while Rauner had the power to pardon Agpawa of any state crimes, he overstepped his authority when he restored Agpawa’s right to hold public office, which he lost as the result of a conviction in federal court.
“The legislature has the constitutional authority to establish the qualifications and eligibility for municipal office, and because the Governor’s pardon power does not extend to a federal offense, he cannot eliminate the collateral consequences that result from a disqualifying federal conviction,” the court ruled.
Agpawa said he would not immediately step aside “because we still have the right to appeal that process.”
“I have to say I believe the court got it wrong,” he said. “[The voters] spoke very loudly with 81% of the vote in this community.”
Now this begs the question whether Agpawa can stay in the seat.READ MORE: Motorcyclist Dies In Southwest Side Road Rage Incident
“I’m not going to break the law,” he said.
Only a presidential pardon could clear this completely, and Agpawa’s name remains on the waiting list.
CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said Agpawa has an uphill battle to get the Illinois Supreme Court to look at his case.
“It’s not up to the United States government to tell Illinois who can hold office. Illinois said you can’t, and the appellate court said, ‘Hey, that’s the law,'” said Miller. “He chose to roll the dice. He won originally, but this time he clearly lost.”
“I don’t think we rolled the dice,” Agpawa said. “I think it’s clear.”
His emergency appeal will argue what’s outlined in the federal pardon application.
“The federal level is telling you to go back to the state to get restored, I think they should have listened to that,” Agpawa said.
Agpawa is scheduled to be sworn in again for his second term May 6, but it’s very unlikely the Cook County State’s Attorney will allow it. The state’s attorney blocked his swearing in four years ago.
As it stands, he still has full powers of mayor for now.
The community plans to hold a rally Sunday in support of the mayor staying in office.MORE NEWS: 8-Year-Old Accidentally Discharges Gun, Wounds 11-Year-Old In Bronzeville
The state’s attorney’s office has not said how it will move forward.