Robert Golba | Bob Uphues

A Riverside resident whose home has been declared a chronic public nuisance and three other people are scheduled to appear in Cook County Circuit Court on May 9 to argue why they should not be held in contempt of court for failing to comply with the terms of a February order related to the property at 225 Millbridge Road.

Last November, the village of Riverside for the first time invoked a chronic nuisance law passed by the village board in 2020 that gives them more leverage in forcing the owners of problem properties to remedy issues or face harsh penalties, up to evicting those living there and demolishing property.

The home’s principal resident is 64-year-old Robert Golba, whose late parents purchased the property more than 40 years ago. Golba’s mother, Lillian, died in 2019 and since then he has welcomed a number of people to live there, including co-defendants William Bellavia, Caroline O’Brien and William Liszeo.

In its initial complaint filed last November, the village of Riverside asked a judge to order Golba to carry out a host of fire safety, health safety and building code repairs and to fine him if he didn’t comply.

The lawsuit stated Riverside police had been called to the house more than 120 times between June 2020 and July 2022 for a variety reasons, including loud noises, unwanted subjects and disturbances, some of which resulted in arrests.

At a Feb. 21 hearing, Judge Kevin T. Lee declared the property a chronic public nuisance and fined Golba a total of $1,850 for that offense and for violations of the village’s fire, health and building codes. The fines were held in abeyance to provide an incentive for Golba to fix the violations.

Judge Lee also in February ordered that Golba could be the only person allowed to live in the home, barring everyone else 48 hours after the court order was signed. Anyone else visiting or occupying the property, except for caregivers or home repair and maintenance contractors, would be subject to arrest for trespassing.

The order also barred Golba from letting the home be used for multi-occupant use, whether he was being paid rent or not, for a period of one year. It also allowed the village to inspect the property at any time with 24 hours’ notice.

At a follow-up court hearing on April 11, neither Golba nor his co-defendants appeared, but the village of Riverside provided documents showing that Golba, Bellavia, O’Brien and Liszeo repeatedly violated the February order barring anyone else from living there.

On April 3, Riverside police had arrested Bellavia for trespassing at Golba’s home after Golba called them to report his presence. Police located Bellavia hiding in an upstairs closet. That same day, police arrested O’Brien on a warrant for failing to register as a violent offender. She also had visited Golba’s house that day, according to police.

On consecutive days in late February, Riverside police arrested two men who were inside Golba’s home in defiance of the court order. Both men had active warrants for their arrests.

In all, police told Judge Lee, they had responded to 18 calls, including five for disturbances and three for unwanted subject, at 225 Millbridge Road since Feb. 21.

Golba told the Landmark in an interview last week that he has no money to pay the fines levied against him and that he has been “multitasking” to address the fire, health and building code violations.

“The repairs are being done as best as I can,” Golba said. “I’m out of money right now. I bought a leaf blower. I bought a hedge trimmer and I’ve been trimming the hedges. … I’m multitasking all day long.”

Assistant Village Manager Ashley Monroe, who oversees the building department, said a village inspector returned to the house on Feb. 27 and noted that Golba had addressed some of the code issues inside the residence.

Golba, who back in the 1990s was the “Uncle Bob” behind Uncle Bob’s Family Fun Center in a strip mall his family once owned on Ogden Avenue in Lyons, says he views himself as someone helping others in need by providing them a place to live.

However, Golba has battled a variety of health issues – some of them resulting from violent incidents with some of those living at the house – and conditions inside the more than 100-year-old home have deteriorated.

Golba has also accused some of those living in the house – or simply squatting there and in the garage – of stealing money and possessions, including his cellphone, a tablet device and musical instruments.

A self-styled artist, musician, songwriter, philosopher and poet, Golba describes himself in his LinkedIn profile as someone “involved in helping the world become a better place.”

As for allowing people back into his home despite the court order barring them from being there, Golba said he believed he was helping those who really needed it.

“These are people I knew and I thought they could use my help and I would try to motivate them, but instead they dragged me down,” Golba said.

While he recognizes the harm he’s suffered at times, he has continued to open his doors to them even after being victimized, Golba said, in part because he was afraid of them.

“I’m afraid Molotov cocktails will go through my window or something,” he said. “[One squatter] threatened to steal everything out of this house. … I’m afraid to not let them in for the dangers that would happen to me and my house.”

During his interview with the Landmark on April 26, Golba said he would no longer let anyone else live in the home, with the possible exception of O’Brien, who he originally took in to be to be his caretaker.

O’Brien, 45, is on Illinois State Police’s list of those convicted of violent crimes against children. When she was 28, O’Brien was convicted of aggravated battery to an infant, according to the Illinois State Police database.

Riverside police charged her with battery against Golba last November and police noted as recently as February that Golba had an active order of protection against her. 

Still, Golba said, he would consider allowing O’Brien to live in the house after she’s released from Cook County Jail, where she’s been held since her arrest in Riverside on April 3.

When asked why he would welcome O’Brien back after she had allegedly battered him, Golba said, “Because she was kind to me when I was hurt the most.”

Golba does not have an attorney, though he said he is seeking free legal counsel and had considered an online fundraiser to help pay for an attorney.

He said he intended to represent himself at the May 9 contempt hearing.