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Jessica Jones and Stephanie Wiedeman terminated during March 22 board meeting

By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (March 23, 2022) – The Thornton Township Board fired two employees on Tuesday night after recently-appointed Supervisor Tiffany Henyard called for motions to terminate.

The motions came after an hour-long closed session. (Closed sessions allow board members to discuss personnel matters in private.) The motions to terminate Jessica Jones and Stephanie Wiedeman were made immediately after the board returned to open session.

Henyard has been in the spotlight as Thornton Township’s new supervisor after a late-night appointment on March 4 made her the head of the largest township in Illinois. Henyard is also the mayor of Dolton.

Motions and votes

Henyard first requested a motion to terminate Jessica Jones. The motion was made by Trustee Jerry Jones and seconded, after a few seconds of silence, by Trustee Joyce Washington. The final vote to terminate Jones was unanimous, with trustees Christopher Gonzalez and Darlene Gray Everett both voting yes, and Supervisor Henyard also casting a vote.

Henyard then called for a motion to terminate Stephanie Wiedeman. Trustee Jerry Jones made the motion, which was seconded by Washington after 20 seconds. The vote was 4-1 in favor of termination, with Trustee Gonzales voting against.

The meeting ended shortly after the votes to fire the two employees.

fired
Thornton Township Supervisor Tiffany Henyard (right) facilitated Tuesday’s meeting while Township Clerk Loretta Wells called the role. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones worked for Thornton Township for nearly three years, joining the team in 2019 after responding to an online job posting. Jones’ title was Assistant Manager to Human Resources.

Jones said she was unable to attend Tuesday night’s board meeting, and was unaware that she was going to be fired at the meeting.

fired
Jessica Jones worked in Human Resources at Thornton Township prior to her termination on Tuesday. (Photo from thorntontownship.com)

She said, “When it was decided, an employee text messaged me and said, ‘I’m so sorry — they let you go.’ And I was just, ‘What?'”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Jones had not received any formal notice of her termination, nor had she been given a reason for being fired.

“It was a shock. It was out of left field for me. It hurts,” she said. “I have not been told why. I have reached out, and I’m waiting to hear back on setting up a meeting and finding out what has happened.”

As one of three people in Human Resources at Thornton Township, Jones knows the standard procedure for termination — a process that was not followed in her and Wiedeman’s terminations.

“In the past, we would sit down with the employee beforehand — even before the [board meeting] agenda was put out. Because you would have their name on the agenda,” she said, adding that an exit interview was usually conducted, and a formal letter was usually written explaining severance and unemployment information — all before the board meeting when the employee would officially be terminated.

Though an item on Tuesday’s board meeting agenda said, “Action Following Closed Session,” and mentioned “the possible hiring, discipline, performance, compensation, and the dismissal of certain personnel,” no agenda items listed the terminations of Jones and Wiedeman.

Stephanie Wiedeman

Wiedeman started working for Thornton Township in 2002 and has held various positions, including as a full-time township employee and as a contractor for the township.

Stephanie Wiedeman (right) poses with then-Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn (center) and then-Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli at an event about 10 years ago. Also pictured is Wiedeman’s niece. (Photo provided)

In June of 2021, Wiedeman was promoted by Frank Zuccarelli, the late Thornton Township Supervisor, to be his executive assistant.

“Frank brought me on as an executive assistant with a goal of being Chief of Staff. So that’s kind of where we were going with his transition team. He brought Dr. [Jerry] Weems on as Executive Director of Transitional Operations, and then I was to be Chief of Staff. And we were going to transition into Frank’s retirement in three years,” Wiedeman said.

“I had already been working with [Township Assessor Cassandra Elston],” Wiedeman continued. “Frank had already assigned me to that, so the last year-and-a-half or so, we’ve been working on what we needed to do to get her in place to win an election in ’25.”

Elston, the current Thornton Township Assessor, was nominated three times to be supervisor during the March 4 township board meeting. Her nomination failed each time, either through direct opposition from trustees Washington and Jones or through confusion about points of order during the meeting.

Unlike Jones, Wiedeman said her termination did not come as a surprise.

“I met with [Supervisor Henyard] on Thursday, and she pretty much told me that I’m not part of her team and she doesn’t trust me and she’s taking my job duties from me,” Wiedeman said. “I thought maybe she’d reassign me to something else. I’ve been here since 2002.”

“I told her, you’re bringing in these people for a transition, but you’re not transitioning. It feels more like a takeover than a transition. … Let’s make this transition smooth for both sides,” Wiedeman said, adding that her advice was not well received.

Neither Supervisor Henyard nor her senior advisor Keith Freeman replied to The Lansing Journal’s request for comment.

Thornton Township
Thornton Township headquarters are located at 333 E. 162nd Street in South Holland. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Future township meetings

Thornton Township headquarters are located at 333 E. 162nd Street in South Holland. Board meetings are typically held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.

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