Robbins Park District Board members sworn in, despite three elected for only two openings

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Three Robbins Park District Board candidates certified as winners in the April 2023 election have been sworn in to office, despite a lawsuit on appeal arguing only two of them should have been certified as elected.

Angelia Murphy-Watts, Terry Lee and Ryan T. Buckley were sworn in Feb. 2 by Appellate Judge Jesse G. Reyes. With their swearing in, the park board now has six members instead of five, Buckley said.

Buckley said he did some research and spoke with members of the Illinois Association of Park Districts and found a state statute that allows park boards to expand to seven members by resolution or referendum.

The board has to determine if a seventh member should be appointed or elected in 2025, Buckley said. In talking to other board members, Buckley said they expressed support to shift to a seven-member board.

“That’s our plan, to expand the board,” Buckley said.

In October, a Cook County judge dismissed a park district lawsuit arguing the ballots gave incorrect instructions to vote for three candidates when there were only two vacancies. The lawsuit also sought to have second-place finisher Buckley disqualified.

The official results show Murphy-Watts received 393 votes, Buckley received 349 and Lee received 344. Murphy-Watts and Lee were incumbents.

The district argued Buckley, as a library board member and legislative assistant for the village, has a conflict of interest making him ineligible to be on the park board. The lawsuit also sought to have Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough change the election website that certified all three candidates as winners.

In her 10-page ruling, Judge Araceli R. De La Cruz wrote disqualifying Buckley would be “based on an assumption or speculation that his candidacy is incompatible with the other positions he holds and not based on any reason caused by the County Clerk.”

In November, Park District attorney Michelle Broughton-Fountain appealed the dismissal, writing the Park District still seeks for Murphy-Watts and Lee to be sworn in and for Buckley to be prohibited from taking the oath of office. The appeal also again requests Yarbrough not list Buckley as a board member on the county website.

Buckley said if the appellate court rules in favor of the Park District, he’d step down from the board. But, Buckley said he is confident the lawsuit will end in his favor because he received the second-highest number of votes and there is no conflict between the seats he holds.

Broughton-Fountain and park district officials did not respond to requests for comment.