Three Robbins Park District Board candidates certified as winners in the April 2023 election were sworn into office, despite an appellate lawsuit arguing that only two of them should have been certified as elected.
Angelia Murphy-Watts, Terry Lee and Ryan T. Buckley were sworn in on Feb. 2 before Appeals Judge Jesse G. Reyes. With his swearing in, the park board now has six members instead of five, Buckley said.
Buckley said he did some research and talked to 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 whether a seventh member should be appointed or elected in 2025, Buckley said. In speaking with other board members, Buckley said they expressed support for moving to a seven-member board.
“That’s our plan, to expand the board,” Buckley said.
In October, a Cook County judge dismissed park district lawsuit arguing that the ballots gave incorrect instructions to vote for three candidates when there were only two vacancies. The lawsuit also sought to disqualify second-place finisher Buckley.
The official results show that Murphy-Watts received 393 votes, Buckley received 349 and Lee received 344. Murphy-Watts and Lee were the incumbents.
The district argued that Buckley, as a library board member and village legislative assistant, has a conflict of interest that makes him ineligible to serve on the park board. The lawsuit also sought to have Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough change the election website that certified the three candidates as winners.
In her 10-page ruling, Judge Araceli R. De La Cruz wrote that disqualifying Buckley would be “based on an assumption or speculation that his candidacy is incompatible with the other positions he holds and not on any reason caused by the Secretary of the County”.
In November, Park District Attorney Michelle Broughton-Fountain appealed the dismissal, writing that the Park District still seeks to have Murphy-Watts and Lee sworn in and for Buckley to be barred from taking the oath. The appeal also requests again that Yarbrough not list Buckley as a board member on the county website.
Buckley said if the appeals court rules in favor of the Park District, he would resign from the board. But Buckley said he is confident the lawsuit will end in his favor because he received the second-most votes and there is no conflict between the seats he holds.
Broughton-Fountain and park district officials did not respond to requests for comment.