Riverside-Brookfield High School board member Edward Jepson, who is running for a second term on the board this spring, called the district’s 2015 decision to sue the village of Brookfield over the denial of a zoning variance for a parking lot “completely and utterly irrational” during an interview with fellow candidates at the Landmark’s offices on Feb. 28.
Jepson, an attorney by trade, said the lawsuit was one of two things – the other being the school district’s financial future — that kept him up at night as a board member.
“It’s the biggest regret of my four years, of having done that quickly on the advice of,” Jepson said, pausing, before continuing, “whoever.”
Jepson’s remarks came during the newspaper’s endorsement interview of candidates for the three seats up for election on the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education on April 4. Other candidates participating in the interview were William “Wes” Smithing and Ramona Towner, both of whom are running for the first time.
Candidates Matthew Sinde, an incumbent, and Gina Sierra, who is running for the first time in District 208 but who has served on the board of Komarek School District 94, were unable to attend.
For Smithing, the RBHS parking lot issue, was a prime reason for running for election. Smithing lives just a few houses west of the parking lot and tennis courts, whose construction will begin this spring.
“Some things wake you up,” Smithing said. “I got worked up, and when you get together like that, then you get to talking about things. And if you don’t like it, you get a clipboard and some signatures and be part of the solution.”
On Feb. 27, the Brookfield Village Board approved a plan for a 50-space parking lot and five tennis courts that resulted from almost two years of litigation that was started by the high school district following the village board’s denial of a 91-space parking lot in May 2015.
The school district sued almost immediately, filing a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court less than a month after the village’s denial.
“The whole thing was completely and utterly irrational from beginning to end,” Jepson said. “But it was about politics. It began because of politics and it ended because of politics.
“It was a big learning lesson for me.”
The result, however, turned out to be a “win-win on both sides,” said Smithing.
“It came to a very nice resolution and we’re very happy with it,” he said.
Towner, whose husband Michael, a former Brookfield village trustee, was a vocal critic of the village’s response to the high school district’s lawsuit, did not want to comment on the record about the lawsuit.