Former Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno will remain a candidate for 1st Ward alderman despite objections from an opponent who said he should be kicked off the ballot because he pleaded guilty in 2021 to obstructing justice and giving a false report to authorities, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners ruled Friday.
The decision clears the way for the four-candidate contest in the 1st Ward to continue in which incumbent Ald. Daniel La Spata is facing off against Moreno and two others to represent parts of Wicker Park, West Town, Logan Square and other neighborhoods. La Spata defeated Moreno for the seat in 2019.
Moreno lost four years ago amid a series of scandals, including in January 2019 when he was accused of lending his Audi to a woman he was dating and then reporting it stolen. Moreno pleaded guilty to charges of obstruction and filing a false police report and objectors said those guilty pleas disqualified him from the race because state law prohibits convicted felons from seeking local elected office.
But on Friday the election board denied those objections and sustained a prior decision that found Moreno received a “second-chance” probation, which they deemed meant he does not have a felony conviction on his record.
When Moreno pleaded guilty to the obstruction and false report charges, he was sentenced to the second-chance probation because he was a first-time offender. Moreno’s attorney, Pericles Abbasi, said the probation allows people facing charges to avoid convictions so long as they fulfill the terms of probation.
“He has no conviction. Because of that, he’s not a convicted felon,” Abbasi said. “Since he has no felony on his record, he’s eligible to run for municipal offices.”
Chicago Board of Election Commissioners members unanimously agreed.
“Usually a felony conviction bears with it that lifetime stigma of felony,” said William Kresse, a member of the election board. “Second chance removes that upon completion of probation so that they can live on without that.”
Moreno said those who filed the objection against him did so on behalf of another candidate in the race, attorney Sam Royko, son of longtime Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko, who worked for years at the Chicago Tribune. The objectors are Royko’s neighbors, records show, and Moreno called the effort a cheap shot.
“It’s a different level than challenging someone’s signatures or residency,” Moreno said. “To try to defame someone’s legal record is at a different level of desperation.”
Royko did not directly answer when asked by the Tribune if he was behind the Moreno objection but Royko noted his signatures also were challenged in an unsuccessful attempt to have him removed from the ballot. The fourth candidate in the race is community organizer Andy Schneider.
Moreno is attempting a return to public office following the guilty plea as well as an allegation of sexual harassment from a former staffer dating back to 2014 that he denied. Also, in August 2021, Moreno pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and speeding after he was charged in late 2020 with crashing into several cars on a posh Gold Coast street.
The former alderman previously told the Tribune the suicide of a friend contributed to Moreno’s poor behaviors and that he is turning his life around. His two-year probation was terminated in August 2022, months earlier than scheduled, Abbasi said at the election board meeting.
Moreno was appointed 1st Ward alderman in 2010 by Mayor Richard M. Daley. In the 2019 race, La Spata attacked Moreno on the scandals and for favoring local developers in the gentrifying ward.
“I make no excuses for the personal mistakes that I made in my life,” Moreno said. “But being vindicated on the legal side of things means a lot because our ward has gone backward in the last three years.”