County Board hopeful’s Oak Park residency questioned

<p>Cook County Board candidate Richard Boykin speaks after accepting an endorsement from a group of West Suburban mayors on Feb. 6. | Phil Rockrohr/Sun-Times Media</p>

Cook County Board candidate Richard Boykin speaks after accepting an endorsement from a group of West Suburban mayors on Feb. 6. | Phil Rockrohr/Sun-Times Media

A congressional staffer turned lobbyist who is running for the Cook County Board collected tax breaks on properties in two counties, a potential violation of state law that his opponents say raises questions about whether he lives in the district that he hopes to represent.

Since 2011, Richard Boykin, the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., has collected a homestead exemption — a tax break allowed only on his primary residence — on a home that he and his wife own in southwest suburban Bolingbrook, Will County records show. During the same period of time, Boykin also collected a homestead exemption on an Oak Park condo he has owned since 2005, Cook County property records show.

Meanwhile, campaign filings and voter registration records list Boykin’s home address at a third property, a condo in Oak Park. Records show the candidate closed on the sale of that property on Oct. 10 — allowing him to meet the 30-day residency threshold required when he filed to run on Nov. 25 to replace 1st District Commissioner Earlean Collins, who is stepping down. A homestead tax break is already on the books for Boykin’s newest condo, but because the property was closed on late in the year, he will be allowed to receive the tax break without penalty during his first year at the residence.

Boykin’s campaign declined to answer specific questions about his residency and the property tax exemptions he claimed.

“Now that this unintentional error has been brought to our attention, we are fully rectifying the situation,” spokeswoman Hanah Jubeh wrote in a one-sentence response to Sun-Times inquiries.

Two of Boykin’s opponents in the race to represent parts of the West Side and Cook County’s western suburbs were more than happy to pile on, though. They point out that Boykin’s wife, Daphne, is listed as a board member of a Parent Teacher Organization on the website for a Bolingbrook elementary school a few blocks from the couple’s home there. School and PTO officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Voting records also indicate that as recently as last month, Daphne Boykin was a registered Will County voter. “If you live in Oak Park, as you say you do, why doesn’t your child go to Oak Park schools?” questioned Ronald Lawless, who is also running for the seat. “If it is found he does not live in the county, then it presents a problem — a big, big, huge problem.”

State law requires candidates for Cook County Board to live in the district they are running for.

“It’s makes you wonder if you can trust what comes out of his mouth,” said campaign rival Blake Sercye. “It’s unfortunate for the people of Oak Park for someone to claim they live in Oak Park when they don’t.”

Potential residency issues aside, taking an exemption you’re not entitled to unfairly pushes the tax burden off on other property owners, Sercye said.

“People who take fraudulent exemptions cost other tax payers millions of dollars each year,” Sercye said.

The window to challenge Boykin’s candidacy with the Cook County Electoral Board has long since closed, leaving the courts as the remaining option for his opponents, said elections attorney Adam Lasker.

If Boykin wins the March 18 primary, Lawless said he intends to challenge his residency in court in an effort to block him from taking the seat.

If a challenge to Boykin’s residency ultimately winds up in court, questions likely to come up include where Boykin sleeps most of the time, what address is listed on his driver’s license and where he is registered to vote, said Lasker, who added that he is not representing anyone with a stake in the race.

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