The Oak Park Public Library will swear in its new board of trustees May 25, but Saria Lofton will not be among those taking the oath of office.
“Although I was elected to the library board trustee position, I will not be able to serve,” Lofton wrote in an email sent to library board president Matt Fruth and then-village clerk Vicki Scaman, now village president.
By not taking the oath of office, Lofton will effectively be resigning from the post necessitating that the board appoint someone else to fill the open seat.
While Wednesday Journal obtained the email May 20, Lofton sent it two days after the April 6 municipal election, in which she won the fourth open trustee seat with 17.75 percent of votes. The Journal has reached out to Lofton for comment.
Despite Lofton’s refusal to publicly state in the weeks after the election whether she intended to assume the office, the date of the email sent to Fruth and Scaman clears up any residual puzzlement over her plans.
The May 25 library board meeting will include discussion of how to proceed on an appointment, Fruth told Wednesday Journal. The board will begin discussions regarding an appointment system following after being sworn in, he said.
“On our agenda is an action item for declaring a vacancy and then hopefully coming to a decision on a process for filling that vacancy,” Fruth said.
The Oak Park Public Library (OPPL) board will also vote on its next round of officers during the Tuesday meeting, which will occur after Wednesday Journal’s print deadline. The vote will determine whether Fruth will enter a new term as president.
Fruth contacted the elected trustees a few weeks back to find out what aspects they would like to have included in the appointment process.
“Just to start thinking about it so that we can be in a good spot when we start that discussion,” Fruth said.
Lofton’s win caused much confusion in Oak Park as Lofton had attempted to remove herself from consideration prior to election night but after the deadline had passed to remove a candidate’s name from the ballot.
Many wondered whether the seat would go automatically to Peter Prokopowicz, the candidate who came in fifth place. However, Lofton’s withdrawal was deemed unofficial under the Illinois Board of Elections regulations as she failed to notarize her statement of withdrawal, rendering it invalid and her win lawful.
Lofton never shared why she could not serve on the library board in any of her communication with Wednesday Journal. Neither did offer she a reason in her May 8 email to Fruth and Scaman.
The library board is subject to the Open Meetings Act. When the time comes to formally appoint a new trustee, the vote will take place in a public meeting.
Prokopowicz announced that he will not submit himself for consideration of the appointment in a written statement sent May 2 to Wednesday Journal. The statement also serves as an apology for previous offensive jokes Prokopowicz made on social media at the expense of Asian Americans. Prokopowicz was widely criticized in the Oak Park community for his social media posts.
“Following the public discussions of my comments online, it is clear that not all members of the community have that confidence in me,” Prokopowicz’s statement reads. “I apologize to the Asian American community for the harm I caused, and I ask that the OPPL board not consider me as a replacement for Trustee-Elect Lofton if she resigns.”