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Robbins Park Board members who participated in controversial elections were sworn in

Three Robbins Park District Board candidates certified as winners in the April 2023 election were sworn into office despite an appeals case arguing that only two should be certified as elected.

Angelia Murphy-Watts, Terry Lee and Ryan T. Buckley were sworn in by Appellate Judge Jesse G. Reyes on February 2. With their 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.

Buckley said the board must decide in 2025 whether a seventh member should be appointed or elected. In speaking with other board members, Buckley expressed support for the move to a seven-member board.

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

Cook County judge in October park district dismisses lawsuit He argued that the ballot papers incorrectly instructed to vote for three candidates when there were only two open seats. The lawsuit also requested that Buckley, who finished second, be disqualified.

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

The district argued that Buckley, a library board member and the village’s legislative assistant, had a conflict of interest that made him unfit to serve on the park board. The lawsuit also demanded that Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough change her election website that certified all three candidates as winners.

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

In November, Park District prosecutor Michelle Broughton-Fountain objected to the dismissal, writing that the Park District still wanted Murphy-Watts and Lee to be sworn in and Buckley barred from taking the oath of office. The objection also requests once again that Yarbrough not list Buckley as a board member on the district website.

Buckley said he would leave the board if the appeals court rules in favor of the Park District. But Buckley said he was confident the case would end in his favor because he received the second highest number of votes and there was no conflict between the seats he held.

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

akukulka@chicagotribune.com

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