Oak Park Public Library Main Branch

The results of the April 6 election stirred confusion when voters elected Saria Lofton to the fourth open seat on the Oak Park Public Library board of trustees. Lofton announced she had withdrawn from the race March 3, after the deadline had passed to have her name removed from the ballot. 

Seeking to clear up the uncertainty, the Illinois Board of Elections told Wednesday Journal that Lofton has indeed won the election as she failed to have her withdrawal notarized, rendering it invalid. 

“We don’t have any evidence that Lofton filed a binding written notarized withdrawal. So Lofton would be certified as the winner,” said Frank Herrera, communications director for the Cook County Clerk’s office.

A written notarized withdrawal of candidacy is required by law to formally withdraw as a candidate, according to Herrera. Without evidence of notarization, Lofton’s withdrawal is considered verbal and insufficient.

Lofton received 17.78 percent of votes April 6, according to unofficial results from the Cook County Clerk. Voters opted to reelect incumbents Sarah Glavin and Matt Fruth, who will serve a fifth term. Glavin and Fruth received 22.23 percent and 22.35 percent respectively. Literature professor Madhurima Chakraborty snagged the highest number of votes at 22.97 percent. Peter Prokopowicz landed in fifth place, with 14.61 percent.

Herrera confirmed that the library’s situation differs from that of River Forest’s  District 90 as Scott Hall, whom voters elected, had his withdrawal properly notarized.

The occupancy of the fourth library trustee seat hinges on Lofton, who refused to give an indication on whether she intends to serve in the position to which she was elected or to resign.

“At this time, I don’t have a comment,” Lofton told Wednesday Journal Monday. “I don’t have anything to say at this time.” 

When asked why she had tried to withdraw and if her situation had changed, Lofton responded, “No comment.”

Lofton’s seat will not go to Prokopowicz by default if she decides against serving.

“If Lofton chooses not to take the oath of office then the board would have authority to appoint a replacement until the next election,” said Herrera.

Fruth, who currently serves as board president, told Wednesday Journal it was his understanding that Lofton does not intend to take the oath of office.

The board has the authority to appoint anyone they deem suitable for the position. 

“They have the option of course of appointing the next highest vote getter but not a legal obligation to do so,” said Herrera.

The library board has received over two dozen emails from the community about the situation, according to Fruth.

“I would say that all of them have asked us to not appoint Peter,” said Fruth.

Prokopowicz has received public criticism for posting racially insensitive jokes on social media at a time when the United States has seen a surge of hate crimes against Asian-Americans, including the shooting of six Asian women in Atlanta last month.

His most recent joke came April 8 in a private Facebook group for Oak Park fathers. After Prokopowicz stated in the group his unfamiliarity with the procedure of filling library trustee seats in the event of a candidate withdrawal, a group member asked whether he had any new Asian jokes. Prokopowicz posted another Asian-themed response.

Wednesday Journal has reached out to Prokopowicz for comment.

Library policies and board bylaws do not provide a formal process by which the library board must appoint a trustee, according to Fruth.

 While Fruth stated Prokopowicz would not be excluded from board consideration if Lofton resigns, the remarks about Asian people may factor into whether Prokopowicz is appointed.

“It would be hard for me to imagine that people on the board would be able to not take that into account.”

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