Not guilty plea entered in Libertyville-Vernon Hills school district perjury case

A District 128 school board member pleaded not guilty to perjury charges Wednesday for alleged violations regarding her candidate petitions for the April 4 election.

Ellen Mauer, who is also the current secretary of the school board, declined comment through her defense attorney, Brian Smith, after entering the not guilty plea Wednesday morning in Lake County Circuit Court.

Judge Victoria Rossetti scheduled an initial trial date of Oct. 23 for Mauer, and set a pretrial status hearing for Aug. 10. Mauer is free from custody on a $25,000 signature bond.

According to Lake County grand jury indictments, Mauer was indicted on four counts of perjury for allegedly affirmed in writing that she personally collected signatures on candidate petitions for the District 128 school board election. Prosecutors allege she did not collect the signatures herself.

The school district includes Libertyville and Vernon Hills high schools. Mauer received the most votes of all board candidates to retain her seat on the board in April.

Mauer, a board member for the past 12 years, did not attend the June 26 School Board meeting, the first following her indictment, and officials did not comment on her absence.

Denise Zwit, an administrative secretary for District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea, faces three counts of perjury for allegedly also affirming the validity of signatures she did not collect on school board petitions in the same election, according to grand jury indictments. She is scheduled for arraignment July 13.

Zwit was also released on a $25,000 recognizance bond when both she and Mauer appeared in bond court following the indictments last month.

Perjury is a class 3 felony that carries a potential sentence of two to five years in prison upon conviction. It can also carry a probationary sentence.

Both Mauer and Zwit have declined to comment since the indictments were announced.

District spokeswoman Mary Todoric said that because the indictments are a legal matter, neither the district nor Lea would be speaking to the issue.

Mauer and Zwit face the same charges faced by former Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd, who is scheduled for trial Oct. 23 after a Lake County judge last month denied a motion to dismiss election-related perjury charges against him.

Rudd was charged with perjury based on allegations that he signed several election petition pages for the 2016 primary election without having collected the signatures himself. Rudd, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, withdrew his Democratic candidacy before he was indicted on five counts of perjury.

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